Singapore bodybuilder Joan Liew received a long-awaited birthday present yesterday, a week before she turns 41, when she was awarded a professional card by the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB).
She is the first Singaporean to receive this status, which earns her entry into professional-level competitions, including top-level events like the annual Olympia Weekend in the United States.
The coveted pro card is widely-regarded to be very competitive and is earned only after winning at some of the highest-level events in the world.
Since her foray into competition began in 2000, she has won 15 medals in 15 shows, including a recent win in the Women's Physique (Open) at the Arnold Classic Asia in Hong Kong last year.
While Liew is a veteran in the local bodybuilding fraternity, she said it has taken 24 years of hard work before it finally bore fruit yesterday.
She said: "Being an IFBB Pro is a new beginning for me. It's another journey with a new playing field, as I will now compete with the world's best athletes.
"It has been 24 years of hard work, and I am truly happy that I have finally achieved my dream."
Liew, who runs a local gym, said she hopes to help develop personal trainers in Singapore and guide other bodybuilders towards earning their own IFBB pro card.
Alex Betts, president of the Singapore Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, gave Liew credit for her commitment over the years.
He said: "It takes many years of training and dieting to reach this level in the sport.
"Many on the outside world see the regimen of a bodybuilder (as) very unforgiving and a huge sacrifice, but those who are passionate about the sport and live it day-in and day-out see it more as a lifestyle that they willingly love and embrace.
"We hope to see Joan go all the way and carry the flag of Singapore on the Olympia Stage and truly make her mark on the sport and make Singapore proud."