Singapore fencer Berthier not foiled by missing equipment

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 ahead of Saturday's International Fencing Federation 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. She had to seek help.

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. And 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 unfortunately couldn't finish, but she did fence better than I did," said Berthier, who is glad to be returning home after closing her season with this tourney.

"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. - SHAMIR OSMAN