SINGAPORE - Given the smile on her face as the Asian Games silver medal was draped around her neck in Jakarta last Thursday (Aug 23), one might think that swimming comes easily to Roanne Ho.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, however, the 50m breaststroke "comeback queen" posted a heartfelt note on her Facebook page sharing her struggles with anxiety, swimming and self-worth.
"My pain was not poetic - it was days without sleep and pretending I was stable enough to continue. I was so crippled by anxiety, and the fear of being a failure or a disappointment", she wrote.
The 24-year-old finished a surprise second to clinch Singapore's first Asiad breaststroke medal in a national record time of 31.23 seconds, ahead of China's Feng Junyang (31.23sec) in third place. Satomi Suzuki of Japan won gold in a time of 30.83sec.
She had defied the odds to compete, having suffered from a stomach bug three days before the final that at one point caused her to vomit about seven times in 45 minutes.
Ho - who had a brush with death in 2016 - went on to describe how at times she refused to show up at training sessions and "couldn't even bear to look at the pool" as she felt that she "simply wasn't enough."
"Sport is so heavily results driven...there will always be a bigger competition or a faster time," she wrote.
"That's when it hit me: if I felt like I wasn't enough without a medal, I would never be enough even with a medal...if I were to base my self worth on my results, I would never be okay with who I am."
Ho concluded her note with a positive message, encouraging readers: "I hope you know that trying your best is enough.
"In the face of disappointment, having the courage to continue is what counts. After all, nothing that's worth anything comes without pain."
The post has since received over a thousand reactions on Facebook and was shared hundreds of times.Photo: The Straits Times
Ho is no stranger to adversity. In January 2016, she was rushed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital after it was discovered that her right lung had collapsed 80 per cent.
After being told that her injury was life-threatening, she was advised to sit out of the Singapore National Age Group Championships in March, the final Olympic qualifier that year for athletes based in Singapore.
Having missed out on a shot at the Olympics, she faced another setback in April that year when a doctor found a tear in her shoulder.
Discussing that difficult period in an interview with The Straits Times in 2017, she said: "I felt like giving up, yet I didn't want to give up and look weak."
Despite her injuries, she later went on to win the 50m breaststroke gold at the 2017 SEA Games in a national record time of 31.45sec.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.