For some, an Olympic or Paralympic medal can arrive early in a career after a sudden, early well-timed rush of form.
For many others, despite all their efforts, all their sacrifices, it never comes.
TeamSG swimmer Theresa Goh celebrating her podium finish moments after her race. Photo: Sport Singapore
But for Team Singapore’s Theresa Goh the glory arrived after over a decade of competing at the highest level.
Athens, Beijing, London - all offered the chance for Theresa and she spared nothing in her attempts to secure a medal in those Paralympics.
But on Sunday night in Rio at the Olympics Aquatic Stadium, in her favourite event, the 100m Breaststroke (SB4), the veteran at 29-years-old, achieved her goal.
“I think it will take a few days for this to sink in,” a beaming Theresa said, moments after her race, quickly reflecting on her fourth placed finish in Beijing eight years ago.
“I missed this chance in 2008 in Beijing and for it finally to be a reality, it is unbelievable. I am going to have a good cry later but it’s all happy tears."
“I still remember Beijing like it was yesterday and I wanted it so badly but it wasn’t my day. I think my day has finally come,” she said.
Bursting out at the start, as she has so often done, Theresa showed her new found ability in the home stretch as she swam to a Bronze medal behind world record holder Sarah Louise Rung of Norway who took the Gold with 1:44.94s and Italy's Giulia Ghiretti who won Silver with 1:50.58s.
TeamSG swimmer Theresa Goh letting the reality of a podium finish sink in after her narrow miss in 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Photo: Sport Singapore
The success was Singapore’s second podium finish in this Games after Yip Pin Xiu’s Gold in the women’s 100m Backstroke (S2).
Theresa’s time of 1 minute 55.55 seconds was not quite as fast as her showing in the qualifying race earlier in the day when she smashed the Asian record with 1:54.50s.
But it was a time produced under huge pressure and tension associated with competing in the race of a lifetime.
“There were a lot of nerves. Honestly, it has been three months of nerves. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights and I was just dying for this day to come and a lot of moments came together to make this moment,” she said.
“I had a lot of moments where I thought of giving up because it was just so tiring and I was so stressed out. Moments when I was alone, thinking to myself about whether or not I could do it or not. But it took a lot of mental skills and encouragement from people telling me that I could do it and to be positive,” she said.
TeamSG swimmer Theresa Goh in action in the Women's 100m Breaststroke (SB4) event. Photo: Sport Singapore
“I had to convince myself though, talk to myself and remind myself that I had done a lot of hard work,” she said.
“It is not just my work, I have a big team behind me and if I had a list of people to thank, I would not be able to finish it. It is truly amazing.
“I followed the plan and it worked out for me. My parents are here, which is fantastic. They were in Beijing too and it is kind of like a second chance for me. They have given me so much support all my life,” she said.
It was clear at the half-way stage that it was going to be a gruelling second 50 metres but Theresa said her message to herself worked.
“I told myself ‘Be brave!’ That is what a lot of people told me and I told it to myself,” she said.
Theresa said her goals had been simple when she began working with coach Mick Massey last year.
“I just wanted to finish in the finals, which was where I started. To be at this point on the podium, 18 months after Mick took us on, I am speechless,” she said.
Theresa has won 29 Gold medals in ASEAN Para Games and has triumphed in meetings around the world but she had no doubt that this was her crowning achievement.
“This one means the most. This is the pinnacle of sporting success. I can try to convince myself that I’d be happy with results whatever they were as long as I tried my best. But it is a little bit different when you get a medal,” she said with yet another smile.
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