Ho's nerves of steel
Singapore's top breaststroke specialist says she's a different person when she steps onto the starting block
Those present at the OCBC Aquatic Centre during the 2015 SEA Games might remember Roanne Ho as the affable, gregarious swimmer who broke the 50m breaststroke national record en route to winning the gold medal.
But, on the starting block before every race, the "second Roanne", a proud, single-minded woman of steel, takes over.
The 1.79m-tall breaststroke specialist, who will taking part in her third Games, told The New Paper: "The 'other Roanne' only comes out when I'm behind the block.
"When people ask me what I think about during races, I tell them that I don't know, because 'she' just comes out and takes over, (especially when) I'm under pressure or when there's something on the line."
The 24-year-old had to dig deep into her resilience last year, when she was twice forced to put her swimming on hold.
Last January, Ho visited a clinic to treat what she thought was a cough, only to discover a collapse in her right lung that needed surgery.
Six months later, she had to undergo a second surgery for a tear in her right shoulder muscle.
Although she returned to the pool for training last September, it was only this year that she began to compete seriously.
During the Neo Garden 13th Singapore National Swimming Championships in June, Ho showed that she had lost none of the cutting edge that made her Singapore's top women's breaststroke sprint specialist.
She said: "There was this Indonesian girl (Vanessa Evato) who was very close to my time (in the 50m heats) and I didn't like that she might beat me.
"In the final, I was so stressed but, when I was at the block, my personality just switched over.
"I thought to myself, 'Okay, I'm just gonna do it', and I won by half a second."
Untapered and nursing a swollen shoulder, Ho clocked 31.66sec, which was just a whisker off her national record of 31.45, which was set at the 2015 Games.
She said that the complications from her shoulder injury are not as physically taxing as they are mentally.
She explained: "It's like taking three steps forward and two steps back - there are days it starts to feel okay and I find momentum, but then it suddenly flares up again.
"It might act up again (closer to the SEA Games), but it's happened so many times that I've learnt to deal with it.
"Quitting isn't an option - I just have to be more careful and work around it, like focusing on kicks when my arm hurts."
Ho is pencilled in for only one event at the SEA Games - the 50m breaststroke.
Asked if she was confident of retaining her title, she said: "Seven out of 10, because as long as I'm not a 10, I'll have to work harder."
"Maybe I'll be a 10 when I'm on the block and my split personality takes over," she continued with a chuckle.
Then the eyes of steel returned, as she added: "I like the 50m event because it is a true test of skill.
"The person who makes the least mistakes will win while the person who cracks under pressure will not do well - and I don't crack."