It took swimmer Quah Ting Wen five years before she could finally train with Singapore's new national team head coach Sergio Lopez, who won a bronze medal for Spain in the Seoul Olympics.
"Before college, I was supposed to go train with him for a year in high school. But I basically just went straight to college," she said.
After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) last year with a degree in communication studies, she was on the verge of extending her student visa to train with Lopez at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. But instead, she hesitated: "There was just this feeling I got, that it wasn't the right time to go back to the States." Then she heard that he was coming to Singapore.
"It's weird how life works sometimes. I was prepared to go all the way there, hand in all the forms, pay the money for the visa. Five years later, I'm finally training with him," she said.
She has already learnt a lot from him, she said. "It's good. You would think after 12 years of swimming you would know everything."
At 22, Quah is a veteran in the national swim team. Hailed as Singapore's new golden girl in 2009 after winning four golds at the Asian Youth Games, she also won five golds at the SEA Games that year.
In 2010, she left for UCLA on an athletic scholarship. But her upward trajectory was halted by a surfing accident in 2011 that left her with a broken arm. It kept her out of the pool for six weeks and dashed her hopes of making the 2012 Olympics. Her record after the accident: five silvers at the 2013 SEA Games.
Quah believes she can still improve. And there are hopeful signs she may find her form again, now that she no longer has to juggle her studies and swimming.
In December, she was named the most valuable female swimmer at the Singapore National Swimming Championships. She won the 100m butterfly, lost narrowly in the 50m butterfly, but did well enough to qualify for five events for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June.
At the nationals, her brother, Zheng Wen, 18, was named the most valuable male swimmer. Jing Wen, 14, the youngest of the Quah siblings, also swims competitively.
Said Quah: "It's good having my siblings swimming with me. There's someone to share the pain of training." She laughs when she is asked if she is their role model. "I would like to think of it that way, but I actually look to my brother as a source of inspiration," she said.
She admires him for being fearless and willing to try new things. As for herself, she has a perfectionist streak and is a stickler for technique.
She trains in the pool 10 times a week. In addition, there is gym and other exercises. While she appreciates having more time to recover from training, she is thinking of getting a part-time job to keep her mind off swimming.
The upcoming SEA Games in June could be her swan song. Or maybe the Fina World Championships in July. Or the Olympics next year, if she qualifies.
"I think I'm at a point in my life where I have to take it one meet at a time, or at least a year at a time. I can't give a definite answer," she said when asked about her future plans. "It's all very fluid."