Anguish then redemption
Darryl loses zone team final, but sparkles in the big one
It was his first time in a competitive final, and the loud, fervent cheers of the two sets of supporters rattled Darryl Sim Jing Quan.
It hardly helped that the 16-year-old Singapore Sports School shuttler was about to do battle in the deciding match for the North Zone Inter-School Badminton Championships B Division title against Bowen Secondary School.
"It was nerve-wracking," recalled Darryl (above), of the moment minutes before his match in the final in March.
"I didn't know how to block out the distraction of the crowd and my hands were stiff from the tension, and of course, I just couldn't play well in the end."
Darryl fell 2-1 to Bowen's Hazim Zambri in the end, and the Sports School lost the final 3-2.
The shuttler was downcast for a while, but he picked up the pieces within a month, and when he faced Hazim again, bounced back in spectacular style to defeat his Bowen opponent in straight sets to seal the National Schools B Division championship for the Sports School.
Recalling his initial loss in the zone contest, Darryl told The New Paper: "I broke down in tears afterwards. I felt like all the hard work I'd put in had gone to waste.
"As captain, I also felt like I had let the team down.
"It took me a few days to get over the defeat. I was moody at training sessions and didn't know what I was doing it for. I had lost my purpose."
But he quickly resumed training with renewed fire, determined to do better.
"He became very positive about making a comeback and started to push himself more," said Darryl's coach, Noor Izwan Paini. "We discussed what went wrong, analysed his game and worked on his weaker areas."
Darryl received help from his dad, Sim Siong Chor, who attended his training sessions every day.
"After each session, I would stay back to brush up on my footwork and strokes with my father," Darryl said.
When the time came for him to face Hazim again, he was ready.
The scene was the same - the scores were tied at 2-2 and the two were to battle it out for the championship point.
This time, Darryl said: "I was more excited than nervous.
"We had more supporters in the crowd this time and I could hear my friends yelling my name. They really helped to motivate me.
"It was one of the best matches I had ever played - everything just fell into place. I was mentally prepared and knew what I had to do to win."
It was an easy win for Darryl, who gained redemption and emerged a hero.
"I'm happy with how it all turned out. After all, the North Zone defeat won't be the only disappointment I'll face in life - there will be more ahead of me and I have to learn how to overcome them," the youngster said.