Nicole relishing SEA Games debut
National windsurfer targets a podium finish at SEA Games in Langkawi
The acrid smell of smoke, the aroma of barbecued meat and a gentle salty sea breeze permeated the air.
Just outside the National Sailing Centre (NSC) last Saturday, a group of about 30 merrymakers were enjoying the long weekend with food, drinks and games of football and frisbee.
Just 10 metres away, over a short fence, a small group of windsurfers quietly geared up, picked up their boards and went out to sea for their training session.
Among them is Nicole Lim, who will be making her South-east Asia (SEA) Games debut in Langkawi, Malaysia, in August.
School may be out for the Nanyang Technological University engineering undergraduate, who is having her term break now, but the 20-year-old is certainly not on holiday.
She has 11 training sessions over six days a week now, about double her schedule before term break.
While she has experience competing at the higher level - such as the 2016 Olympic qualifying campaign and the recent RS:One World Championships in Vietnam - Nicole is still stoked about her upcoming SEA Games debut.
"I feel that the major Games, such as the SEA Games and Asian Games, are bigger than regattas like the Worlds because there's a lot more attention (locally)," Nicole told The New Paper.
"I am very excited and honoured to go... but my nerves will be racking up a bit."
Fortunately, she has a few things going for her.
For instance, the light wind conditions in Langkawi - the bulk of the Games will be held in Kuala Lumpur - are similar to those at the NSC, so the windsurfer does not need to base herself elsewhere to prepare for the Games.
Also, Nicole's younger sister Ynez has had major Games experience, having competed at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics.
Said the 18-year-old Ynez, who was among the athletes Nicole beat in the selections earlier this year: "I am really happy for her, I think she has put in a lot more effort than I did.
"It's been something that she has wanted for a long time now and she is finally able to chase her dreams.
"As a sister, I am always there for her and helping her every step of the way."
While the younger sibling has not been training much since starting her architectural course at Nanyang Polytechnic in April, Ynez still pops by the NSC to spar with her sister when she has the time.
Nicole said: "She knows how to pressure me to do better.
"I really have to push myself when she's there."
Nicole finished seventh, in a 15-strong field, at the Worlds in Hoi An two weeks ago, and fourth among the South-east Asians there.
Thailand's 2016 Olympian Siripon Kaewduangngam won the women's title while her compatriot Sarocha Prumprai came in fourth.
Malaysia's Cheow Lin Geh was fifth.
Each country can submit only one entry per class at this SEA Games, giving Nicole a shot at a podium finish in Langkawi.
She said: "I need to minimise those tiny mistakes and work on my cardio so that I can not only keep up with the top guys, but also overtake them at some points.
"I hope to at least stand on the podium."