Singaporean jiu-jitsu exponent Audrey Kua turns grief into motivation
Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent wins in Abu Dhabi a week after grandmother's death
Doubts about competing surfaced in local Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent Audrey Kua's mind just before the Abu Dhabi World Masters Jiu-Jitsu Championships in April.
A week before she was to compete in the tournament, her grandmother passed away.
The despondent Kua, 31, could barely focus during training.
She repeatedly made mistakes and there were times when she would break down, leaving her unsure if she could handle it.
But Kua eventually decided to compete.
Keeping her grandmother, who had suffered from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease over the last three years, in mind, she turned her grief into motivation and clinched the gold medal in the 70kg Purple Female Master 1 category, after defeating two opponents.
She said: "After the tournament, I felt this sense of relief, not just knowing that my grandma wasn't in pain any more, but that I also managed to do something for her, to remember her."
More than a month has passed since her victory, but Kua still cannot wrap her head around it.
"It's still surreal for me," she said. "Even after I won, it was like, really?"
Going into the tournament, she had low expectations of herself. But her coach and husband, Bruno Amorim, thought otherwise.
After all, Kua had come agonisingly close in recent years.
Last July, she nearly beat South Korean world champion Sung Kira at the final of the Tokyo leg of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, but an error by Kua cost her the gold.
Amorim, 33, said: "I had very little doubt in my mind that she would win.
"I knew deep inside that if she worked hard and was able to display her abilities in full, there was very little chance she wouldn't succeed."
Self-doubt is something that Kua has battled with for a long time, but the sport has helped her build her confidence.
Little did she know that the martial art would have had such a significant impact on her when she took it up seven years ago.
Back then, Kua had been diagnosed with clinical depression.
She was making progress, but on the advice of her doctor, sought out a sport as a way to wean herself off medication.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu became an outlet for her.
Seven years later, largely thanks to the martial art, she is no longer reliant on medication, is more confident and runs her own Brazilian jiu-jitsu gym, together with Amorim.
She said: "When I do jiu-jitsu, I always have something to look forward to because I really enjoy it. I have a lot more self-confidence overall, I walk down the street and know not a lot of things can hurt me.
"That all helps with my mental health, my confidence, and I've made really good friends."
Kua, who has progressed to the brown belt, has set her sights on getting a black belt - the highest rank in the martial art.
Chasing that goal will not be easy for the 31-year-old, who juggles two jobs - she is a sales executive by day and martial art instructor and practitioner by night - but it will take more than that to quell her ambition.
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Dr Henry Kothagoda, president of the Ju-Jitsu Association of Singapore, said he was pleased with Kua's achievement.
He said: "It is an indication that the standard of BJJ in Singapore is on an international level."
Kua is not done yet as she hopes to represent Singapore at a major Games one day.
Last year, she came close to that when she was initially selected for the Asian Games in Indonesia, but was replaced and was not part of the final team.
She said: "I was sad that I couldn't compete because I know I could have represented the country well.
"But, at the same time, it's the decision of the committee... so I'm OK with it either way.
"For me, it's just a service to the country to be able to compete for Singapore."