June 19, 2023
SINGAPORE – At just 22 years of age, Singapore fencer Amita Berthier has already racked up several firsts.
She was the first Singaporean to win a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) team championship in the United States. In qualifying for Tokyo 2020, she also became the first fencer from the Republic to clinch an Olympic spot by winning her place in the qualifying tournament.
On Sunday, she continued her trailblazing act by achieving Singapore’s best finish at the Asian Fencing Championships in Wuxi, China, after winning a joint-bronze in the women’s foil.
She had become the first Singaporean fencer to reach the competition’s semi-finals, where she lost 15-8 to fellow sixth seed, China’s Chen Qingyuan.
Chen, who was the runner-up in the 2022 edition in South Korea, went on to clinch the title by defeating Japan’s Sera Azuma. Berthier had reached the quarter-finals in 2022, when she lost to another Japanese fencer, Yuka Ueno.
Expressing her delight to have gone one better, the Singaporean said: “I was in the top eight last year so this is definitely progress. I have lots to keep working on, but every victory is a big step forward.
“Truly happy with my performance and looking forward to getting better and working towards the Asian Games as well.”
Berthier, who was given a bye in the first round, defeated Hong Kong’s Daphne Chan 15-12 in the round of 16 and South Korea’s Hong Seo-in 15-10 in the quarter-finals to reach the last four.
She kept reminding herself to enjoy each bout and look forward to the next challenge, adding: “Must say I was a little nervous but being nervous is good… I want to keep being hungry for better results. The semi-final has given me the opportunity to learn from mistakes made and grow stronger.”
The joint-third finish, with 2022 winner Shi Yue, will give Berthier some crucial points in her qualification campaign for the 2024 Olympics. She is aiming to earn direct entry to the Paris Games via her world ranking and needs to be among the top two fencers in the Asia-Oceania region.
Fencing Singapore technical director Marko Milic said her latest showing is a “tremendous” result, adding: “It will help Amita to have a high chance to qualify directly to the Olympics. Also, it will boost her and the team’s confidence for the Asian Games.”
She won a team bronze at the Asiad in Jakarta five years ago but was knocked out in the round of 16 in the individual foil. But since then, she has gone on to bag more achievements, including her third straight NCAA team title in March, during her final year with the University of Notre Dame.
She could yet accomplish more feats at the Asian championships. Next up for her is the women’s team event on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, they will be short of one key member as Maxine Wong is out with an injury after pulling a leg muscle during a pre-competition training camp.
Despite this, Berthier emphasises that “we will keep fighting hard and hope for the very best”.