Surreal to be no. 1 Junior: Berthier

Fencer tops world rankings in women's foil; coach says 'the sky is the limit' for 18-year-old

Fresh from being crowned Asian junior champion, Singapore's Amita Berthier is now the junior world No. 1 in women's foil.

With the 48 points she earned after winning the Under-20 title at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Jordan last week, she shot from third to the top of the International Fencing Federation's rankings with 154 points, one ahead of Italy's Martina Favaretto.

"I am elated and, at the same time, it is surreal. It has been a long journey, lots of intense sparring and never a guarantee of victory," Berthier said yesterday.

"But I'm enjoying the journey and will continue to listen to my coach's advice to be consistent. The junior journey has been an eye-opener.

"There are no short cuts... topping the world rankings tells me that if I set my mind to working hard and accepting the challenges, anything is possible. I want this experience to push me on when I hit the senior ranks in two years."

Her coach Ralf Bissdorf backed the young prodigy to break more new ground, saying "the sky is the limit" for the 18-year-old.

The 47-year-old German and 2000 Olympics foil silver medallist, said: "I was told on many occasions that we should not try to compete beyond South-east Asia, but I believe we have fencers in Singapore who can succeed on the world stage.


Amita Berthier, who won the Asian junior individual and team foil titles last week, will carry her No. 1 ranking into next month's World Junior Championships in Poland. PHOTO: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME/FENCING

"This is an incredible achievement which many thought is not possible, but she did it in her first year as a junior and we celebrate this milestone.

"Along the way, she has won medals at South-east Asian, Asian and world levels. The next goals are even harder to achieve. But I continue to maintain that for Amita, the sky is the limit."

Yau Wee Sian, Fencing Singapore's vice-president for high performance, also praised Berthier, saying: "This is a historic achievement for a Singaporean fencer and it comes as no surprise that Amita is the one to carve out this new milestone.

RITE OF PASSAGE

It has been a long journey, lots of intense sparring and never a guarantee of victory. I want this experience to push me on when I hit the senior ranks in two years.

AMITA BERTHIER, junior women's foil world No. 1.

"As a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in the United States, she continues to make waves on the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) circuit, winning the individual title last month while she's also a member of the winning team."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu described the feat as "a great achievement for Singapore sports".

"Congratulations to Team Singapore fencer and Singapore Sports School alumna Amita Berthier for being ranked No. 1 in world junior rankings!" Ms Fu said in a Facebook post yesterday.

"Her recent stellar performances at the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships have placed her as the first Singaporean fencer to be world No. 1. This is a great achievement for Singapore sports.

"Amita, you are an inspiration to our youth athletes, and many other Singaporeans too. Well done!"

Berthier, who also won the Asian junior team event with Maxine Wong, Tatiana Wong and Denyse Chan, will carry the No. 1 ranking into next month's World Junior Championships in Torun, Poland.

"I definitely feel the pressure, but I shall not let it dominate my mind. I want to remain excited about every competition and to continue doing my very best," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Surreal to be no. 1 Junior: Berthier'. Print Edition | Subscribe