When she was four, Gabrielle Fa'amausili nearly drowned during a swimming lesson.
The experience scarred the New Zealander so much that it took her two years to muster the confidence to step into the water again.
Perhaps overcoming such adversity helped the 15-year-old stand tall at the Fina World Junior Championships yesterday.
Heading into the 50m backstroke final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the defending champion had to contend with Australia's seemingly unstoppable Minna Atherton. The latter had on Friday become the first youth swimmer to go under 28sec in the event.
But Gabrielle had the last laugh in the final as she prevented Minna, 15 - who had already won the 100m and 200m - from completing a backstroke sweep.
The Kiwi was quickest off the blocks with a reaction time of 0.57sec and clocked 27.81 to clinch gold, out-touching Minna by a mere 0.02.
Canada's Danielle Hanus came in third (28.26).
Said Gabrielle: "I'm so happy. I was hoping (for a world mark) but to see it on the board is just crazy.
"I was a bit scared when I saw Minna going under 28 seconds but I just went out there and gave my everything tonight. But it's great to see her doing just as well."
The other world junior mark to fall on day five of the championships came in the evening's final race - the women's 4x100m freestyle relay.
Australia's streak of winning at least one gold on each race day continued in spectacular fashion as their relay team won in 3min 39.87sec. They out-touched Russia by a mere 0.04, thanks largely to their last two swimmers.
Third swimmer Gemma Cooney was 1.21 behind Russia at the 250m mark but was only 0.08 behind when she handed over to anchor Lucy McJannett.
The latter duly blazed home with the second-fastest split in the final (54.38) to break Russian hearts.
Said Lucy: "I knew I was behind with 50m to go but I wasn't trying to think too much. I just really wanted to go as hard as I could, and get in front for the girls and the whole swimming team."
The night's other golds went to Italy's Simona Quadarella (women's 1,500m free) who triumphed in a championship record time of 16:05.61.
Ukraine's Andrii Khloptsov won the men's 50m fly in 23.64 while Sean Grieshop of the United States was victorious in the men's 400m individual medley in 4:15.67.
Entering the final day of the meet, Australia lead the medal table with eight golds and six silvers.
They are ahead of the US who have six golds, nine silvers and four bronzes.
Russia sit third with four golds, one silver and nine bronzes.
There are 11 finals today and Sean said he is confident the US can reclaim top spot.
The 16-year-old said: "I do believe my team-mates and I can really fight hard to be (top)."
This article was first published on August 30, 2015.
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