On the first day of her International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations last year, she was struck with chicken pox that lasted the entire infection period.
Two days ago, it all became a distant memory for Miss Leong Kit Yan, 19, who emerged as one of the top performers in her cohort, scoring 40 points out of 45.
"I was screaming and I was just so elated and excited, I can't describe the feeling," the netball player told The New Paper yesterday.
Miss Leong has come a long way. Her PSLE T-score was 198, among the lowest in the cohort that enrolled in the Singapore Sports School's express stream in 2010.
Referring to her tough time in primary school, she revealed she had difficulty understanding the subjects, especially mathematics.
"I paid attention in class, but I just couldn't understand. I even scored 26 out of 100 for mathematics in the prelims," she said.
"I couldn't memorise anything. I was sleeping for one hour and studying half an hour."
Using her PSLE result as motivation to work harder, she started reading her textbooks even before stepping into her new school at Woodlands.
Her hard work at the Sports School paid off.
She started off in the lowest-ranked class in Secondary 1, but eventually found herself in the best class in Secondary 4.
She had a net score of 10 points for her GCE O levels - one of the top five scorers in her cohort - and opted to join the IB programme.
As a netballer, Miss Leong had to juggle studies and sports.
In Year 6 in 2015, with the IB exam looming, she had to prepare for two competitions, the Netball Super League and Asian Youth Netball Championships, held in March and December, respectively, that year.
She described the period as a "difficult and depressing" time, as she had to study on her train rides to and from the Sports Hub, where she trained.
She credited her school for supporting her - classmates loaned her their notes whenever she missed out and her teacher even made ginseng drinks for her during the exam period.
She is currently studying economics at the Singapore Management University (SMU) and plays for the Opens national team and the national Under-21s.
Miss Leong said: "Optimism has been a key factor in my success. The only way not to have any insecurities is to be better.
"I was determined to prove to other people that I could do it as well."
This article was first published on January 7, 2017.
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