Singapore gymnast Tan Sze En gets best birthday gift: An Olympic spot
Singapore gymnast Tan Sze En has given herself the perfect birthday present by earning a ticket to next year's Olympics.
Tan, who turns 19 on Saturday, achieved the feat following her debut at the World Championships, which ended on Sunday.
Finishing with an all-around score of 48.098 after the competition in Stuttgart, Germany, Tan found herself among the qualifiers for the Tokyo Games announced by the International Gymnastics Federation on Sunday.
News of the qualification came as a surprise even to herself. Tan told The New Paper: "It felt crazy and unreal to secure a spot! It's honestly the best birthday present I could've asked for!"
Tan had been out for several months due to a shoulder surgery after last year's Asian Games. She resumed full-routine training for all four events only three months ago.
She had started full training on the beam and floor in late February and on the vault in May.
"Bars were the slowest and hardest to get back to, so I started fully training on bars only at the end of July," she said.
"Going into the World Championships, I didn't have high expectations of qualifying, so this came as a total surprise.
"I'm really thankful for the support from Singapore Gymnastics, my coaches and family. I couldn't have done it without them."
Tan is the second Singaporean gymnast to qualify for the Olympics after Lim Heem Wei made it for London 2012.
She is also the second Singaporean athlete to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics, after diver Jonathan Chan.
Singapore Gymnastics president Derek Mollison said: "Her achievement is an inspiration to us all and shows every gymnast in Singapore that if they believe in themselves, work hard and dream big, they can compete at a world level."
At the World Championships, US star Simone Biles grabbed the headlines by clinching her fifth gold medal - and the 25th in her career - at the women's floor final on Sunday to conclude her best outing.
Determined to hone her skills, Tan has moved to the US to train with the best.
Currently based in Illinois, where she is training with Legacy Elite Gymnastics, Tan is also putting on hold the start of her education at Stanford University as she prepares for Tokyo 2020.
Her immediate mission, though, is the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games in the Philippines, where she will be making her debut at the biennial meet.