AT 11, Ho Lin Ying was already a gold-medal winner in qiangshu - a form of wushu - at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Last month, the Secondary 2 student at Nanyang Girls' High School went one better, finishing first in the taijiquan (compulsory) event at the World Wushu Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
Now 14, she was the baby of a 12-strong Singapore team who had competed at the tournament.
While a podium finish in her event drawing four competitors was not impossible, the main objective had been for her to gain experience at her first senior international competition. But showing remarkable composure, she beat Italy's Romina Quatela, 27, and Kazakhstan's Anel Sanatkyz, 18, en route to becoming the first local world champion in an individual event at senior level since 1995.
It was a remarkable feat for the 1.56m tall girl who gets the nod as The Straits Times' Star of the Month for November.
The award is an extension of ST's Athlete of the Year accolade which was launched in 2008. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.
"I was very nervous before I did my routine and had to take many deep breaths to calm myself down. But once I started, I forgot about the fear and could fully concentrate," Lin Ying recalled.
The taiji specialist does not believe that an absence of Chinese competitors - China are the world leaders in wushu - in her event meant that she had an "easier" time in the competition.
Said Lin Ying who has been involved in wushu since age three: "You can't be affected by critics. There will always be people who put you down no matter how you win. I thought I won because of my skills and I'm pleased that my score was the highest in both the men's and women's category."
Her 9.4 score was just above Macau's Chong Ka Seng, who won the men's event with 9.39.
Said Singapore Wushu Dragon and Lion Dance Federation president Liang Eng Hwa: "We expected her to win a medal but our aim was to expose her to top-level international competitions at a young age. Her win is a credit to her coaches, and especially her family who have been very supportive throughout."
Mrs Ho Bee Beng is glad her daughter's efforts have paid off.
"I'm very proud of her, not just because she won, but also because of how hard she trained for the competition despite having examinations," said the part-time administrative assistant.
"I never had to push her to do well. She is self-motivated, independent and really passionate about wushu," added Mrs Ho, who has one older son.
Lin Ying is now spending three weeks in China on a training stint arranged by the federation.
"I still have many things to learn and have a lot of flaws to correct. I'll use my performance as motivation to do even better next time," she said. "I really hope I can take part in the Asian Games next year.
"I still want more medals and I want to go to more competitions and gain more experience."
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