Four years ago, Jasmine Ser could not shake the feeling of being an outsider at her first Olympic Games. The Singapore shooter had failed to qualify for London 2012 and only competed as a wild card at the Royal Artillery Barracks, where she finished 24th in a field of 56.
One Olympic cycle later, her mentality is markedly different as she prepares for the Rio Games. The 25-year-old earned her spot after winning the 50m three-positions (3P) event at February's Asian qualifier in New Delhi.
A month later, she bagged a bronze in the 10m air rifle at the Bangkok stop of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup, her first medal in the multi-leg series.
In Brazil, she will compete in the 10m air rifle (Aug 6) and 3P (Aug 11) categories. According to ISSF's latest world ranking, she is ranked inside the top 15 for both events.
She told The Sunday Times yesterday: "I felt inferior back then (in 2012) because I wasn't there on merit... My skills were not good enough. I tried to convince myself I was good enough but I wasn't."
HIGH MEDAL HOPES
Going in as someone who belongs there (at the Olympics), having these expectations is part of the deal.
JASMINE SER, national shooter, on carrying the Republic's hopes at the Summer Games.
"Now I've qualified along with everyone else and I feel like I'm on par with them, not better, but everybody has the same level of skills, that's why we're there. This gives me a lot of confidence, not feeling inferior and I think it's important."
The three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist is also more at ease with herself and the pressures that come with being an elite-level athlete.
While swimmer Joseph Schooling and table tennis player Feng Tianwei are tipped as Singapore's best medal hopes in Rio, Ser is seen as an outside chance and willingly embraces the burden.
A podium finish is possible and it would be pointless to say or believe otherwise, noted Ser, a keen reader with esoteric tastes whose last read was fittingly titled The Art of Thinking Clearly.
"I feel comfortable with that... Going in as someone who belongs there (at the Olympics), having these expectations is part of the deal."
Another sign that she is part of the Olympic tribe is her invitation to a training camp in north-east France, where the top shooters from the United States, Europe, Iran and India will gather to practise and spar with each other for the next two weeks.
She will return to Singapore for her final preparation before she and team-mate Teo Shun Xie, who qualified for the 25m air pistol event in Rio, depart for South America.
Much has changed for Ser since her Olympic debut, and that includes the sport itself. Whereas previously scores were counted in integers (qualification round) and then decimals (final round), all scores are now calculated to decimals.
Hitting a 10 on the target board is no longer enough, Ser mused, as perfection ranges from 10.0 to 10.9.
"The level is higher than before. You have to be better."
Progress has certainly been made. Only in Brazil will Ser discover by how much.