Roanne Ho retains gold after comeback from collapsed lung, shoulder surgery
A year ago, national swimmer Roanne Ho wasn't even in the pool while her teammates trained up to 11 times a week.
The breaststroke specialist discovered in January last year that 80 per cent of her right lung had collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Five months after that, she underwent surgery to fix a loose joint capsule in her right shoulder.
In the slow road towards recovery, the 25-year-old wondered if she'd ever make it to this year's SEA Games.
"I really thought that it wouldn't be possible, I almost gave up," said Ho last night.
"But I just had a really strong support team - my family, the coaches, my teammates - they always say I can definitely do it.
"I should just take it one day at a time and they are always with me."
Her hard work and perserverence paid off, when the Queensland University of Technology marketing graduate retained her women's 50m breaststroke title at the National Aquatic Centre in Kuala Lumpur, in a new Games and national record of 31.29sec.
Malaysia's Phee Jinq En was second with 31.54, while Ho's teammate Samantha Yeo took the bronze medal with 32.17sec.
Ho had clocked the previous Games and national mark of 31.45sec at the last SEA Games on home ground two years ago.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet, it still feels surreal, I still feel like i am in a dream, to be honest. I am very, very happy," Ho said after her race.
"(Retaining my title was) definitely something that I really wanted, but I wasn't sure if I would because I was facing a lot of problems even post surgery, like I kept meeting roadblocks during my training.
"At some points, I didn't think that it would be possible at all. So to be here is almost like a miracle."
Ho added that last night's win, in her only event at these Games, was "one of the best things that has happened to me in my life", given what she went through last year.
While she conceded that the KL Games may be her last SEA Games campaign, she may yet train towards next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia, and Asiad in Indonesia.
Ho said: "I was definitely aiming to better my national record.
"I was also aiming for the Commonwealth Games qualifying of 31.47, so I knew if I just got a personal best I would be able to do it.
"I have definitely lost a lot of fitness (last year). Even till now, I still can't keep up with most of my teammates. It's actually quite embarrassing.
"I will definitely try to get my fitness back to what it is supposed to be. It is going to be an interesting training journey."