It was sweet victory for Sharmini Ratnasingham when she completed the SEA Games show-jumping final yesterday without a single penalty, and with the fastest time out of all the riders.
Equestrian's show-jumping finals at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre yesterday caused quite a stir when it saw not one, but two jump-offs to determine the medal winners.
Singapore's Catherine Chew and Malaysia's Sharmini faced off for the gold, while the hosts' Predrag Marjanovic and Thailand's Sailub Lertratanachai went head-to-head for the bronze medal.
Sailub eventually clinched the bronze, and there was even more pain for the hosts when Sharmini secured gold, with barely a second separating her from Chew's time.
Chew, who was part of the Singapore outfit that won team gold on Monday, was visibly disappointed.
Sharmini was over the moon.
"I surprised myself," said the 29-year-old.
"Jump-offs are not really my speciality. Catherine (Chew) has a naturally better pace, so I had to work a little bit for it but, at the end of the day, I managed to do it."
The Malaysian made her international debut as part of the national team at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia, and won a bronze there.
Since then, she has been training steadily and competing in Europe to boost her ranking in the international arena.
She is no stranger to riding.
"I started riding at age 6, and there was already a certain level of familiarisation with horses because riding has been part of my family."
Sharmini currently splits her home base between Europe and Kuala Lumpur, for competitions and training.
Having attended boarding school in Britain at 15, she went on to Reading University and obtained her master's degree in management at Imperial College London.
Shuttling between the UK and KL has proven arduous, but she counts her blessings, especially with her horse, Arcado L, and her coach, Lars Bak Andersen.
"Lars has been amazing. I have so much to thank him for. He's been instrumental in picking the right shows to participate in, because it's so important, to make sure that you have the right venues that will maximise your performance," she said.
It takes significant time and a lot of effort between horse and rider to be able to deliver a smooth showing, and Sharmini had to travel frequently to Arcado L's base near Hamburg, Germany, to develop the relationship.
"I've had him since December 2013, and I'm so blessed to have a stallion like him."
Inspired by her first major win, Sharmini plans to press on with training and tournaments.
She is already looking forward to the next SEA Games in 2017, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur.
"It's great to be able to have the Games at home, and maybe we can retain the gold on home turf.
That will be magic," she said.
This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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