Singapore marathoner gunning for personal best at Rio Olympics
Marathoner Neo Jie Shi is not going to break any records, but the 31-year-old's route to the Rio Olympics is an inspiring and important tale.
It is a story of an accidental Olympian, who qualified for the 2016 Olympics after the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore last December.
While her personal best time of 3hr 9min and 57sec is far off the Olympic qualification mark of 2:45.00, she made the cut for Rio because of her top-10 finish in the December event, which was billed as an IAAF Gold Label race.
It is a story for the romantics - that if you pursue your passion with determination you could receive unexpected rewards.
It is this tale that has inspired people, enough to wave or smile at her if they spot her at training, with one even going up to talk to her.
"I was warming up at NUS (National University of Singapore) once when this young lady just came up to me and said that she was following my progress, and wished me luck," said the human relations and administrative assistant manager, after training last night at the Gombak Stadium.
"I thought that was pretty heartwarming."
The one-time weekend warrior was also pleasantly surprised when the female winner of the Sundown Marathon this year, Sharon Tan, cited her as an inspiration.
After receiving news of her Olympics spot in January, Neo and her coach Steven Quek - appointed that month to help her - set out to achieve realistic targets.
"I am aiming to better my personal best, and maybe a sub-3 hour marathon further into the future," said Neo.
Yvonne Danson's national mark of 2:34:41 was never within her sights, nor did she have any illusions over how she would fare in Rio.
Changes to her training have been minimal since Quek came on board, with Neo continuing her routine of working full-time and training after hours.
"We had a very short time leading up to the Olympics, so we didn't want to change too many things as that might actually affect her training," said Quek, a veteran running coach.
Under his guidance, Neo has clocked new personal bests in the 10km (39:50) and 21km (1:27:39) over the last few months.
She is confident of setting a new mark for herself in the full marathon in Rio, and aims to continue competitive distance running after the Olympics.
And she has a message to all the weekend warriors out there.
She said: "Keep doing what you like doing, because you'll never know where it can lead you."