Fencer Amita impresses with gutsy gold
Fencer Amita, 16, digs deep to win women's individual foil title on SEA Games debut
She was a gold medallist at the 2016 Asian Cadet and Junior Fencing Championship, and won a bronze at the World Junior and Cadet Championship in April this year.
Amita Berthier then clinched a historic Round-of-32 finish at the senior world championships last month.
But, for a while at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon, it looked like the 16-year-old Singaporean could not carry her potential to the SEA Games.
She trailed Maxine Isabel Esteban of the Philippines 5-0 and then 7-3 in the women's individual foil semi-final.
But the teenager dug deep to find a steely nerve more associated with battle-hardened veterans, winning 10 straight points before finishing off the encounter 15-9.
Amita would go on to win the gold medal in confident fashion, beating another Philippine fencer Samantha Kyle Catantan 15-7 on a day that saw two other fencers win bronze.
Nicole Wong, the Republic's other foilist, had to settle for a joint bronze after surrendering a 14-10 lead to lose to Catantan in her semi-final.
This means a lot, this is my first SEA Games, and I managed to win the gold. I really wanted to do this for my mum and dad. National fencer Amita Berthier
Ahmad Huzaifah also won a bronze in the men's sabre after falling to Vietnam's Vu Thanh An.
"I was really nervous at the beginning, and I didn't know what to do," said Amita of her semi-final encounter with Esteban.
"It's my first SEA Games and I had some kind of expectations for myself, but I spoke to my coach and he said, 'Let's just reset and have fun'. And that's what I did."
It worked a charm.
"When I started catching up, she started rushing, she made mistakes, and I scored on those mistakes," added Amita.
"Then I went to the final telling myself that I'm in the final, and I want to win the gold.
"Samantha was in my pool, so I knew how she fenced, and I also studied her in the semi-finals.
"I went in there with a game plan, not like the other matches - (in) this one I was confident and that helped me throughout.
"This means a lot, this is my first SEA Games, and I managed to win the gold. I really wanted to do this for my mum and dad."
Not bad for someone who was a volunteer at the 2015 SEA Games hosted by Singapore.
Her coach Ralf Bissdorf asserts that the SEA Games experience will do his young charge a lot of good, as she looks to scale even greater obstacles in the world of fencing.
"If you look at the quarter-finals, Amita faced the girl from Vietnam, a former Olympian who's ranked in the top 100 in the world, so it's not a given that Singapore fencers will win a medal here," said Bissdorf, of Do Thi Anh.
"(The SEA Games) is difficult... her gold medal is a great achievement.
"This is important for her development. This is the first time that she's competing in a multi-sport event like the SEA Games, and I think it will help her grow."
Bissdorf is hoping to guide Amita into the top 15 in the world junior rankings, but the precocious talent is already thinking bigger when she declared her own target for the next season that kicks off next month.
"My main goal for fencing is to get into the top 10 of the junior world rankings," said Amita.