Brian shows huge resolve to return to fencing
Singapore Sports School student refused to buckle even with a severe medical condition
Something just didn't feel right.
He was constantly thirsty and fatigued, but that didn't stop foil fencer Brian Cheong Sze Kai, 16, from continuing to compete.
He fell ill while representing the Singapore Sports School at the Manchester Cadet International Tournament in September, 2013.
Brian persevered, finished 84th out of 121 competitors and was bitterly disappointed with his performance.
It came as a double blow when he was later diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after returning to Singapore. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin for the body's needs.
"I was hospitalised for a week," said Brian.
"I was hardly able to stand when I first arrived home, and lost 10kg within a week.
"I had to be taught how to inject myself with insulin daily and that was one of the hardest parts, because I have a fear of needles."
At the same time, Brian began to fear for his future.
He said: "I felt like, maybe, I wouldn't be able to live a normal life. I saw the daily injections as a huge weight on my shoulders.
"I thought, what if it turns out that it's not possible for me to continue fencing? It was all I could focus on."
Digging deep, Brian put his worries aside and concentrated on returning to the love of his life - fencing.
He had a shaky start, though, ending up back in hospital only a few days after returning to school.
"I was suffering from a low blood count that gave me constant headaches, and had problems with simple physical training," he said.
"My muscles had shrunk a lot, and it was exhausting to run because I hardly had any stamina."
His conditioning coach helped to tailor a special training programme for him to get back in shape, which Brian was determined to do.
"I wanted to work hard and get back to my previous level, even to exceed it," he said.
"I had my family and friends to motivate and encourage me, but I knew they couldn't actually do it for me - I would have to accomplish it on my own."
Loo Zhao Rong, general manager of the Singapore Sports School's fencing academy, was one of those who witnessed how Brian's condition helped build up his character.
She said: "Brian became more resilient and independent after falling ill.
"It wasn't easy for him at first, but he's since overcome it and is a lot stronger now. He's a role model for the other students."
In 2014, Brian returned to Manchester for the same tournament and finished 60th out of 116 competitors.
He also clinched an individual silver medal in the National Inter-School Fencing Championships in April this year, making good on his promise to improve on his previous showing.
"My coach and teammates were all cheering me on," Brian said.
"I wanted to prove to them and myself that I could do it and, most of all, I wanted a good finish in my final year in the Sports School."