Inspired by her late father and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, pole vaulter Rachel Yang set a new national record of 3.83 metres in winning the event at the Malaysia Open yesterday.
In doing so, she has beaten the qualifying mark of 3.80m for the SEA Games.
Her personal best (one centimetre better than the mark she set in 2011) would have won a bronze medal in Myanmar 2013, when gold medallist Sukanya Chomchuendee of Thailand set a new Games record of 4.21m.
Yang wrote on her Facebook wall that she dedicated each of her jumps to Singapore's first prime minister Lee, who died last Monday.
"Mr Lee, this is for you, I will make you proud," was what she told herself before she cleared 3.40m, 3.60m and 3.70m.
"I also wanted to do it for my father, who passed away suddenly two weeks ago due to liver failure."
Yang then agonised over whether to attempt a new national record, as doubts crept into her mind.
She remembered unsavoury comments about her ability - she is a working mum, she is also doing her MBA, she is 33 and has no time - and her previous disputes with Singapore Athletics.
But she then drew on lessons learnt from Singapore's founding father and overcame all the negativity to win the event and set a new national record.
Yang went for 3.83m, but failed her first attempt.
She said of what she felt towards Mr Lee then: "I was swarmed by negativity. But your passing has made me realise that what I am facing is nothing, really nothing.
"The more haters want me to fail, the more I want to show them what I can accomplish.
"Today, I let go of every negative thought and I thought only about you.
"I failed my first attempt. But I went back to my start point and reminded myself that I have to make you proud, I needed to clear that height for you."
And she did it in style to finish with the gold, national record and SEA Games qualification.
THANK YOU MR LEE
Yang vowed to continue to confound critics and improve on her heights en route to the SEA Games.
She also thanked Mr Lee for being a role model and inspiration, as well as her bosses and colleagues at the Singapore Sports Hub for their support.
The marketing and partnerships manager added: "Everything will get better from now on.
"I have been able to clear 4.10m in training (the silver-medal mark in 2013) and, if everything works out on the day, the gold medal is within reach."
Also at the Malaysia Open, Cheryl Chan won the women's 3,000m steeplechase in 12:07.42 to erase her old national mark of 12:12.57, set just two weeks ago.
However, the 19-year-old's time is still more than a minute off the 11:04.84 set by 2013 bronze medallist Jessica Barnard from the Philippines.
This article was first published on Mar 30, 2015.
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