Teenage fencer Amita strikes bronze at world juniors
Teenager's decision to study and train in the US pays off handsomely
It has been a testing last one-and-a-half years for teenage fencer Amita Berthier.
The 16-year-old lost her father 14 months ago, after he died in a workplace accident.
Three months ago, she took the brave decision to leave her family and move to Boston, Massachusetts, to study and train in the United States in a bid to take her fencing to the next level.
Her sacrifice paid off handsomely yesterday morning (Singapore time), when she won a bronze medal in the cadet women's foil event at the World Junior and Cadet Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
After defeating Anna Taranenko of Ukraine 15-6 to reach the semi-finals, which guaranteed her at least a bronze medal, she fell 10-12 to Nora Hajas of Hungary.
In the process, the former Singapore Sports School student-athlete became just the second Singaporean to medal at the international meet, after Lau Ywen's gold medal in the individual sabre cadet event in France last year.
Amita had finished in the top eight in last year's edition.
She said stepping on the podium was an emotional moment, as she dedicated the medal to her late father.
"It was an overwhelming feeling," she told The New Paper in a phone interview yesterday.
"I had so many things running through my mind - my dad, my family, everyone back home who has supported me through this journey.
I wish my dad could have physically been there when I stepped onto the podium, but I knew he was there in spirit.Fencer Amita Berthier dedicating her bronze medal to her late father
"I wish my dad could have physically been there when I stepped onto the podium, but I knew he was there in spirit.
"It meant a lot."
Since January, Amita has been staying with a host family whose two sons also attend the Marx Fencing Academy where she trains.
After her exploits in Bulgaria, she is returning to Singapore to stay for a month, before resuming her training in the US, where she hopes to enrol in a college.
Her coach, Ralf Bissdorf, was elated with her showing.
"I first worked with her when she was eight years old, and she was one of the most talented fencers I have seen at that age," said the German, who won a silver medal (individual foil) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"But talent is just one thing. Amita also has the ability to work hard, and get up for it every day."
Amita's burgeoning talent has not gone unnoticed in the sports fraternity in Singapore.
Last month, she was named one of 15 new recipients of the multi-million dollar Sports Excellence Scholarship by Sport Singapore.
Bissdorf, 46, has high hopes for his prodigy, and has set her a target of winning a medal at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur in August.
His long-term goal for her is a spot at the Olympics.
"The focus before this was to medal here, but now, the main thing will be her long-term development over the next three years," said Bissdorf.
"She's currently ranked 36th in the world at the Under-20 level, and our target is for her to get into the top 15 within the next 12 months, and also medal at the SEA Games.
"Within three years, we want her to be a contender at the U-20 World Championships, and beyond that qualify for the Olympics one day."