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Fencers bag historic gold in Asian meet

Women's foil junior team score morale-boosting 42-38 win over Japan in final

The odds were stacked against Singapore's women's foil team in the junior (Under-20) final of the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships in Amman, Jordan on Wednesday night.

The second-seeded quartet of Amita Berthier, Maxine Wong, Denyse Chan and Tatiana Wong were not given much chance against top seeds and defending champions Japan.

After all, Maxine and Denyse were part of the Singapore team, including Tan Jia Lin and Rachel Lim, who lost 45-18 to Japan in the cadet (U-17) final at last year's championships in Dubai.

But, armed with the perfect game plan and determination, the underdogs stunned favourites Japan 42-38 to clinch a first-ever gold for Singapore.

The US-based Berthier, who studies at the University of Notre Dame, had won the junior foil individual title on Sunday. Singapore finished the competition with two golds, one silver and two bronzes.

"We created a winning tactic with Slava (foil national partner coach Viacheslav Bobok) and the girls followed it," said national foil coach Andrey Klyushin.

"We have Amita who can score many points in her bouts, so we told Denyse not to rush and fence more defensively and Maxine to put more pressure on her opponents."

Singapore were given a bye in the Round of 16 and beat Kazakhstan 45-16 in the last eight. In the semi-finals, they came from behind to oust South Korea 45-32 while Japan beat Hong Kong 45-27.

In the final, Singapore trailed 13-10 before Denyse, 15, narrowed the gap to 14-13 against Yukino Tosa in the fourth bout.

The turning point came in the fifth when Berthier scored nine touches against Mako Sakai to give Singapore the lead for the first time at 22-16.

They kept their nerves to score five points each in the last four bouts to seal the historic success.

Berthier, 18, said she and her teammates had only one aim entering the final - "to fight like never before for that gold medal".

She said: "This historic gold medal is a morale booster and can only lift the confidence level within the fencing fraternity in Singapore.

"The victory showed that we can achieve anything with single-minded focus as a team."