After an awkward landing in training a fortnight ago left her with a sprained knee ligament, national figure skater Chloe Ing was not sure if she could even make the trip to Japan, where she had been pencilled in to compete over the weekend.
But a personal-best showing in her free skate routine at the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix in Yokohama yesterday has earned her qualification to the Junior World Figure Skating Championships next March.
With team-mate Yu Shuran also eligible after qualifying at the Logrono Grand Prix leg last year, this is the first time Singapore has two skaters making the cut for the prestigious world event.
Skaters must obtain a minimum technical element score (TES) in both the short programme and free skate at an ISU-recognised junior event within the past two seasons to qualify for the world championships.
Ing, who turns 18 today and met the mark for the short programme last year, posted 77.05 points (38.53 TES) in the free skate at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Centre. It was an improvement on the 72.52 scored three years ago at her first Junior Grand Prix event in Mexico.
That the result came after a stressful two weeks filled with doctor's appointments, daily rehabilitation sessions for her sprained medial collateral ligament and a disappointing showing earlier in the short programme made it all the more gratifying.
She finished 14th overall out of 22 skaters with a total of 111.92. Japan's Kaori Sakamoto was the champion (187.81).
"I had a bit of trouble walking, and it was kind of scary because I didn't know if I could compete or not," she told The Straits Times over the phone from Yokohama.
It was less than a week ago that Ing, who moved to Toronto at age seven to pursue figure skating, got her first full run on the ice since that bad landing. She got off to a shaky start in the short programme - a forgettable 34.87 that was far short of her best of 40.93.
"I didn't get to train as much, didn't feel as well prepared as I usually would be, and it affected my confidence," she said. "But I really wanted to just do as well as I could for the free to redeem myself.
"Up till before my injury, I had been training really hard as well so it's quite a special feeling, to have it all pay off even through injury."
Having renowned coach Brian Orser by her side in Japan also helped. The Canadian has produced the likes of Olympic and world champions South Korean Kim Yuna and Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu. Said Ing, who trains mainly with Canadian Michelle Leigh but works with Orser from time to time: "I enjoy working with Brain and he has this calming effect on me so it was especially nice to have him around this time."
She will skate next in the senior division at the Autumn Classic in Montreal this month, before the Merano Cup in Italy in November. She is bidding to qualify for the Four Continents Championships (4CC) in Gangneung, South Korea next February.
With only one spot available to Singapore at the junior worlds in Taiwan, the Singapore Ice Skating Association (Sisa) will select its representative based on the skaters' highest technical scores obtained until the 4CC.
Said Sisa president Sonja Chong: "This is indeed a happy problem, to have two skaters eligible for selection. It shows the depth of skating that Singapore is starting to develop, which is timely with figure skating making its debut at the SEA Games next year. Their achievements bode well for the sport and show that with adequate training and a strong personal desire, our skaters can make it on the international stage."