After winning a bronze medal as part of the women's 4x100m medley team at the Asian Games in Indonesia last year, Quah Ting Wen was often asked if she would hang up her goggles as she was "one of the oldest" swimmers in the Singapore national team.
Keen to block herself from "all that unnecessary noise", the 26-year-old went to Texas in the United States in December to train with her younger sister Jing Wen, who studies at Texas A&M University. The month-long stint rekindled the passion and competitive fire in her.
"I found that I still very much enjoy swimming and racing. I realised that I needed to take more ownership of my swimming," Quah told The Straits Times yesterday.
"I learnt to put all that noise aside and change the way I approached training and I've been a lot happier.
"I did what I needed to do for myself instead of going with the flow and listening to what other people had to say."
And doing it her way has paid off.
Quah clocked 55.41 seconds to win the women's 100m freestyle at the Singapore Swim Series presented by OCBC at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday. In the process, she set a national record, bettering her own mark of 55.52sec set in 2016.
"I feel good. I think this weekend was the first time in quite a long time that I've been excited to race," said Quah, who also holds national records in the 50m free, 200m free and the 400m individual medley.
NOT READY TO RETIRE
It made me want to keep going and reminded me why I'm swimming. I realised what I needed for myself and I know that I'm not ready to walk away from the sport even though I'm older.
QUAH TING WEN, national swimmer, on how the month-long stint she went through in the United States has rekindled the passion and competitive fire in her.
"Before every meet, I go in with a mindset that I want to do well and swim fast, but it's usually accompanied with a lot of nerves and expectations. This time, I felt more confident in my preparation for the swims."
Her coach Leonard Tan, who is seconded to the National Training Centre from the National Youth Sports Institute, praised the progress and consistency shown by the lanky swimmer in training in the past seven weeks.
The former national swimmer told ST: "I feel happy for her that she's in a better place in terms of her overall physical state.
"We've been focusing a lot on her freestyle and made some minor tweaks to her stroke while working on her fitness and speed.
"She's looking a lot better but, of course, it's a work in progress. The next step, which is her goal as well, is to get her timing for the 100m freestyle to below 55 seconds."
Quah will be competing at the Singapore National Age Group Championships next month in a bid to qualify for the SEA Games in the Philippines at the end of the year.
The two-time Olympian is also aiming to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
And she is keen to build on the lessons learnt during her recent stint in Texas.
She said: "Swimming is a very competitive sport and it can get intense sometimes.
"When I was training with my sister, the coaches and swimmers were all so supportive of each other and rallied around each other.
"I tried to hold on to that vibe - it was a little thing I brought to training to keep myself going, keep myself happy and motivated. And I've been swimming better in the past seven weeks.
"It made me want to keep going and reminded me why I'm swimming. I realised what I needed for myself and I know that I'm not ready to walk away from the sport even though I'm older."
Meanwhile, Jonathan Tan set a national Under-17 record in the 100m freestyle at the Singapore Swim Series yesterday.
The 16-year-old clocked 49.81sec to surpass his previous mark of 50.24sec set last year. The teenager was part of the quartet who won a 4x200m freestyle relay bronze at last year's Asian Games in a national record time of 7min 14.15sec.