Singapore fencer not foiled by missing equipment

Amita Berthier had to fight with a borrowed weapon and chest guard and still made the women's final
Amita Berthier had to fight with a borrowed weapon and chest guard and still made the women's final.

Standing at the baggage carousel at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Amita Berthier had feared the worst.

The Singapore fencer had landed in the Cuban capital on Friday ahead of Saturday's International Fencing Federation (FIE) Junior World Cup, and had to wait for 20 minutes before her luggage appeared.

But her equipment bag containing her weapon and chest guard was nowhere in sight.

An hour and a half later, her equipment bag still could not be located and she decided to switch her focus to fixing the problem. And, amazingly, with borrowed equipment, she made the women's foil final - on her 18th birthday.

Berthier lost 15-12 to 13-year-old Canadian prodigy Jessica Guo, failing to retain the title she won last year, but she still saw the positives.

"It was a rough night but, looking at the circumstances and conditions here, I'm happy with my performance," Berthier, who won her second Junior World Cup title in the Guatemala leg last month, told The Straits Times in a phone interview yesterday.

"I was running around borrowing the chest guard from the girls in my poule, but the whole thing didn't really affect me very much.

"It's always about how you handle things that happen, and if you let it affect you.

"I'm glad that I was able to stay positive."

It was not the first time she has encountered this problem when she travelled for overseas competitions but the glitch nonetheless disrupted her preparations.

Berthier recalled how she had to frantically make many phone calls before she managed to borrow a weapon from a Singaporean teammate on the night of her arrival.

Then looking at the schedule, she managed to borrow a chest guard from her poule opponents without inconveniencing any of them.

Berthier won four of her six poule matches, including a victory over Guo, but things were just a little different in the final.

"I made a few technical mistakes in the final, but she fenced well and kept blocking the target. I unfortunately couldn't finish, but she did fence better than I did," said Berthier, who is glad to return home after closing her season with this tournament.

"The first thing I'm going to do is to have chicken rice with my mum and sister. It's my favourite dish and I miss Singapore food so much," said the University of Notre Dame freshman.

She will have only two weeks in Singapore before flying off on Jan 2 for another Junior World Cup event in Italy and a senior World Cup tourney in Poland starting Jan 11.

"It won't be a long break, but I'm really looking forward to it. I miss my family so much," she said.

"I didn't have Wi-Fi for about 20 hours on Saturday, and it was even difficult to talk to my mum on the phone on my birthday.

"I don't want to look at my phone bill when I get home."

Shamir Osman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore fencer not foiled by missing equipment'. Print Edition | Subscribe