Ser Han loves the bumps and bruises
RI water polo star takes all the underwater shenanigans in her stride
They may be involved in contact sports but, even then, athletes never like to get hit.
But Neo Ser Han is not like most athletes.
Be it a bruised rib or a swollen eye, the 18-year-old simply shrugs it off and gets on with it.
She was a key figure for Raffles Institution's (RI) A Division water polo team who won the national title this year, scoring twice in the 7-2 win over Temasek Junior College in the final in April.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, the Year 6 student said: "One time, I was kicked in the hip and couldn't move at all. It's a contact sport, so most of the time you have to wrestle with your opponent.
"You can get kicked or your opponent can just grab your swimming costume and it's all under water.
"I get bruises after every match, even in training. But it's all part of the game. It's pretty fun actually and the bruises spur me on somehow."
Ser Han was good enough to be part of the Singapore women's team who won gold at the 2011 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Indonesia.
She picked up water polo in Secondary 1 and it seemed a natural fit as she loved swimming and ball sports.
Ser Han's relatively early exposure to water polo has put her at an advantage when compared to her counterparts.
"Most of her teammates started (playing water polo) when they were 15 or 16, but Ser Han began when she was 13," said Lim Yao Xiang, coach and teacher-in-charge of water polo at RI.
"Because of her ability, it puts her ahead of her peers. She uses this well, as she is always leading her teammates during games."
The win in April marked RI's eighth consecutive women's A Division title and a second successive winners' medal for Ser Han, who stands at 1.72 metres.
She will soon begin her A Levels exams.
Ser Han took the bold step of skipping her preliminary examinations to represent Team Singapore at the recently-concluded Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The women's team won one out of five matches in their group and failed to make the quarter-finals.
Her parents did not object to the decision, with her father going as far as flying to Incheon to lend his support to Ser Han's Asian Games dream.
"I wasn't worried (about my A Levels), because my water polo requirements don't really affect my grades. I can still cope with my studies," she said.
"I've been managing my time, studying as much as I can before training starts."
Her hard work has gone down well.
"What's great about Ser Han is her stubbornness. You can tell her that she can't cope, or she can't do well, but she won't listen to you," said Lim.
"She has her own mind on things and that comes in handy when she's working hard to achieve what she wants for herself."