Fencing: Amita Berthier finishes second in Havana leg of Junior World Cup with borrowed equipment

SINGAPORE – Standing at the baggage carousel at the Jose Marti International Airport, Amita Berthier feared the worst.

The Singapore fencer had landed in the Cuban capital of Havana ahead of Saturday’s (Dec 15) International Fencing Federation (FIE) Junior World Cup, and had to wait for 20 minutes before her luggage appeared. But her equipment bag was nowhere in sight.

An hour and a half later – sans weapon and chest guard – she turned her focus to fixing the problem and, with borrowed equipment, she went on to make the final of the women’s foil event.

Berthier lost 15-12 to 13-year-old Canadian prodigy Jessica Guo, failing to retain the title she won in Havana last year – on her 18th birthday, no less – 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,” she told The Straits Times in a phone interview on Sunday.

“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.”

This was not the first time her equipment bag had not arrived with her luggage, but the glitch had thrown her preparations into disarray.

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.

And then fixing up a schedule so that she could 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 made a few technical mistakes in the final, but she fenced well and kept blocking the target. I unfortunately couldn’t finish, but she did fence better than I did,” said Berthier, who is glad to finally be returning home after closing her season with this tourney.

“The first thing I’m going to do is 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.

She will only have some two weeks in Singapore before flying off on Jan 2 for another Junior World Cup event in Italy (Jan 5) and a senior World Cup tourney in Poland a week later.

“It won’t be a long break, but I’m really looking forward to it. I miss my family so much,” said Berthier, who still has not received her equipment bag at press time.

“I didn’t have Wi-Fi for about 20 hours on Saturday, and it was even difficult to talk to my mum on the phone on my birthday. And I don’t want to look at my phone bills when I get home.”

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