Debutante Tan Sze En makes it to Tokyo after long journey of injuries
Olympic debutante Tan Sze En's road to the pinnacle of sport did not come easy, with the 20-year-old Singaporean having to fight off a slew of injuries along the way.
But the gymnast has emerged stronger with every fracture and every tear.
Following shoulder surgery after the 2018 Asian Games, she had only three months of full-routine training before securing her Olympic spot.
Her all-around score of 48.098 at her debut appearance at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart helped her book her Tokyo 2020 ticket.
Previously, Tan missed the 2017 SEA Games because of a left-ankle fracture suffered during training.
She also had a partial tear of her lateral collateral ligament in her left knee that forced her to miss the 2019 SEA Games.
Last year, following news of the Olympics' postponement, she underwent three wrist surgeries.
However, Tan does not view these injuries as setbacks, but as lessons that taught her to train smarter and helped her to mature as an athlete.
"As I've gotten older and gone through numerous injuries, it taught me to be smarter with training," she told The New Paper via a Zoom interview from California, where she is a student at Stanford University.
"It is not about high volume and quantity but more on the quality and making sure that I'm focused when I take every turn and making every turn count... so that's how I've been approaching training for the Tokyo Olympics."
Along with training smarter, Tan has also been trying to stay in tip-top condition by making her recovery a priority.
She credits the conducive training environment at Stanford for allowing her to focus more on gymnastics, saying that it "helps with motivation".
She added that she is feeling excited for her maiden Olympics. Said Tan: "It still feels kinda surreal sometimes. I am so grateful for the opportunity to compete there and represent Singapore."
Tan, who is the second Singaporean gymnast to qualify for the Olympics after Lim Heem Wei in London 2012, hopes to make everyone proud.
When asked about her goals ahead of her Olympic bow, she said: "I just hope to be able to put out routines that I'm doing in training.
"Usually when I compete, I get nervous and that throws off my timing.
"But I have been working sets in the gym and I hope that translates to the competition floor.
"I just want to be able to perform to the best of my ability."
Tan, who is one of the youngest in Singapore's contingent of 23 athletes for the Tokyo Games - had a few words of advice for budding athletes who aspire to go to the Olympics.
"I would say to trust the process and keep working hard and be patient, because progress comes in waves. And don't give up when things get rough," she said.