When national muay thai fighter Lena Tan started training in the martial art at 17, she feared that her mother would find out.
This was despite the fact that two family members were already active enthusiasts - her father practised karate and her elder brother taekwondo.
"I had childhood asthma and my mother was worried I'd over-exert myself," said Tan, 28.
Her mother eventually learnt about her passion when she came clean after her first professional fight in Australia in 2007, and now attends every one of her fights with her father.
This staunch support has in turn fuelled Tan's desire of making them proud right in their own backyard, by leading Singapore to glory - if muay thai is among the list of sports - when the SEA Games are held here next year.
Hence, there is incentive for her to show that she can deliver - starting at the amateur Muay Thai World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia next month.
Tan will be looking to end an undistinguished record at the annual event - she did not progress past the first round in 2010 and 2011.
If she manages to win a medal, she will match the feat of Brenda Shee, the only Singaporean so far to do so, when she bagged a silver in the junior category in 2006.
"A medal from the World Championships will be very important to the sport here because it will enhance our chances of getting a spot among next year's SEA Games contingent," said Tan, a senior e-commerce executive who is also captain of the national muay thai team.
Certainly, a medal from Langkawi will strengthen the Amateur Muaythai Association of Singapore's bid to compete at the SEA Games again.
The only time a muay thai team from Singapore participated in the SEA Games was in 2007, when Shee brought home a bronze in the women's 51kg flyweight category.
That is the same weight category that Tan will contest in at Langkawi.
Another Singaporean, Derrick Ng, 28, will also compete in Langkawi, with his debut in the 57kg featherweight category.
While the student is looking no further than getting a win in his first fight at the championships, he also hopes to be able to go on to showcase his prowess at the SEA Games next year.
"Both Lena and I are already 28 this year, and we know we don't have a lot of years left in the sport so it's really now or never," said Ng.
"If we were able to retire after participating in front of a home crowd at the SEA Games or, better still, win a medal there, it will a dream."
This article was published on April 21 in The Straits Times.
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