Wang Jinghan stepped onto the mat on April 5 knowing that the winner of the heavyweight final would clinch the Schools National B Division judo divisional title.
Gone was her injury nightmare of April last year when she dislocated her right collar bone in the semi-finals and watched from the sidelines as her Nanyang Girls' High team-mates went on to lift the trophy. Instead, telling herself that her school was counting on her, the Secondary 4 student landed a waza-ari and beat Raffles Girls' School's Yang Tongchen to seal the victory.
For that, the plucky teenager earns the inaugural Straits Times Young Star of the Month award for school athletes. The accolade is an extension of The Straits Times Star of the Month award.
Jinghan, 16, said she is not fazed by injuries. Instead, she had doubts over continuing to compete when even daily movements were a struggle for her. She said: "At that point, I was thinking if I should stop judo because I wondered if I could still cope with the intense training. I faced a dilemma then, and at first I felt like I should give up.
"I'm a left-hander so I could still write. But I had to shower using just one hand and sometimes my mum had to help me wear my shirt."
Jinghan, who has two sisters in Primary 2 and 6, said: "My parents were initially angry with me because they asked why was I so stubborn to still want to carry on when usually other people would quit after having so many injuries."
Her list of injuries includes a left arm fracture when she played rugby during a cross-training session in 2015, a fractured finger last month, and a fractured right arm when she was younger.
NOT ONE TO GIVE UP
Jinghan has a sort of resilience that makes her mentally stronger than the rest. She has a strong desire to win and that keeps her fighting.
TANG JINGFANG, judo coach, on her protege.
"But I'm not bothered by my injuries. I'm used to it, it's not so bad. Now that I'm still young, my body can still take it, but not when I'm older," said the green belt holder.
Her coach Tang Jingfang said: "Jinghan has a sort of resilience that makes her mentally stronger than the rest. She has a strong desire to win and that keeps her fighting no matter if she's losing or winning."
Jinghan's foray into martial arts began when she signed up for taekwondo classes at Leng Kee Community Club when she was six. And she took up four co-curricular activities in Gan Eng Seng Primary, choir, chinese calligraphy, taekwondo and basketball.
The judoka, who will take her O Level examinations later this year, said: "When I feel restless, I would go out to run a few rounds around the neighbourhood in Redhill. I'll feel energised after I sweat."
The next dilemma for her is to choose between enrolling in polytechnic or if she could, join most of her judo friends under the school's Integrated Programme at Hwa Chong Institution next year.
She is eyeing a business diploma course in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Her parents, who are native Chinese - father is from Shijiazhuang, mother is from Hohhot in Inner Mongolia - prefer their daughter to continue her education at Hwa Chong and a local university later.
Jinghan, whose application for direct school admission to Hwa Chong was unsuccessful, admitted: "I've never studied that much before. The only motivation for me to do well for my O Levels is because I want to join my judo friends in Hwa Chong. I would be sad if I dropped out of the team. If I don't end up in Hwa Chong, I'll go to polytechnic."
ST sports editor Lee Yulin said: "Jinghan is the epitome of everything we admire in an athlete. Her passion for her sport, her grit in carrying on despite suffering a serious injury, make her a worthy recipient of the first ST Young Star of the Month award."