Olympics: Z marks the sport for Singapore fencer Amita Berthier
Singapore fencer a trailblazer at just 20
His signature was to leave his mark by carving out the initial "Z" on defeated foes.
Now, years after Zorro first piqued a six-year-old Amita Berthier's interest to step on to a fencing piste, foil in hand, the 20-year-old has left her own mark - as a trailblazer of Singapore sport.
In March 2019, she became the first Singaporean to ascend to the pinnacle of the International Fencing Federation's (FIE) world junior rankings.
Just over two years later, in April, she became the first fencer from the Republic to qualify for the Olympics.
Berthier will be joined in Tokyo by fellow qualifier Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman, making them the first Singaporean fencers at sports' grandest stage since 1992, when James Wong and Ronald Tan earned their Barcelona berths by virtue of being Singapore's top fencers.
Berthier might not remember which of the Zorro movies sparked her interest in emulating the mysterious black-clad masked swordsman, but she recalls telling her parents, "mum, dad, I want to try this" after being enthralled by Antonio Banderas' character.
Shortly after, when she was seven, she and her older sister Aarya, a former national fencer, once again saw the mark of Zorro. This time in Novena.
Berthier told The New Paper: "(The movie) got us excited, all that swashbuckling, but I was still very active in soccer (then).
"We then chanced upon Z Fencing at United Square and all the memories of Zorro came flooding back and we stepped in to give it shot - the fencing bug 'bit us hard' and the rest, as they say, is history."
Despite being a history-maker, Berthier is not fuelled by firsts.
"I actually don't embark thinking that I have to be the first in whatever I do," she said.
"But I do tell myself constantly that there is no half-hearted measure and I will give 100 per cent effort and believe that a sound process will lead to the desired outcome."
But, even with a sound process and unwavering effort, the path to the Olympic Promised Land has not been smooth for the sociology undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
In 2016, she lost her cheerleader-in-chief, her father Eric, who died in a workplace accident at age 51.
When she clinched her Tokyo 2020 berth after besting home favourite Yana Alborova of Uzbekistan 15-14 in the women's foil final at the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualification Tournament in Tashkent, her first thought was "Thank you daddy".
It was the fulfilment of a promise she had penned and put in the coffin of a man whose wake-up calls were her alarm clock when she had early morning gym sessions.
He was also her chauffeur from school to training, furnishing her with chicken rice, a favourite of hers, before sessions.
Her right ring finger remains adorned by his last birthday present to her.
Berthier has spoken effusively in the past about the role he and her mother Uma, whom she has not seen since last August as the 20-year-old has been based in the United States, have played in her sporting success.
But she was also keen to highlight the importance of Aarya, 22, formerly a regular opponent on the piste.
Said Berthier: "I am totally fortunate to have Aarya as my sister and fencing buddy... She is sharp, quick-witted, understands the trials and tribulations related to fencing.
"I am deeply grateful to her for being that confidante and her astute observation helps me think of alternative options when preparing for competitions... Her immense support drives me to want to do better...
"During the Covid lockdown last year, I continued training at home with my coach giving me virtual lessons and Aarya stepped in to be my sparring partner."
Not content with just being Singapore's fencing trailblazer, Berthier has been keen to get involved in activities that get her out of her "comfort zone".
Over the years, she has been involved in Project Read, which helped inculcate reading habits in kids from lower-income backgrounds, and took on a part-time project taking photos of conserved areas for heritage galleries "to understand our Singapore story".
She explained: "These projects get me out of my comfort zone and explore other areas of interest and give back to the community in small ways.
"This is something I would like to continue doing when I have more time on my hands. I have been given help when I needed and still need (it), and I would like to 'pay it forward' in my own unique way."
For now, though, Berthier's sights are trained on Tokyo.
She offered some advice for Singaporeans who want to be armchair fencing experts when the foil programme begins on Sunday, saying: "It is not just 'go poke your opponent... with these huge needles'.
"For foil, we only have a strategic target - the torso. So watch very closely who has the right of way and hits the opponent first.
"If the referee raises his or her hand in my favour, then you can cheer as loudly as possible for me!"