Yu Shuran made a historic debut for Singapore at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki yesterday and came tantalisingly close to creating another milestone. But it was not to be.
The Singaporean teenager scored a personal best of 52.87 points in the women's short programme, a significant improvement on her previous best of 50.99 points obtained just four weeks ago at the Asian Winter Games in Japan.
The short programme is the shorter of two routines in a figure skating competition. It features seven required elements and lasts no more than 2min 40sec.
But in the end, she missed the cut for the free skate programme, finishing 25th out of 37 competitors - one spot out of the qualification places for the free skate. Nicole Schott of Germany was the 24th-placed skater on 54.83 points.
Skating gracefully to the tune of Blues Instrumental by Jethro Tull and Maria Maria by Wyclef Jean in the Hartwall Arena, 16-year-old Shuran nailed a triple-toe triple-toe for the first time.
She also landed a triple salchow smoothly and a double axel during her routine, and then broke out into wide smiles afterwards.
At that point, Shuran, who was seventh in the starting order, was placed second on the leaderboard.
Her hopes began to rise but she had to endure an anxious wait of more than two hours before eventually learning she had been edged out of the top 24.
She told The Straits Times: "It's a mixed feeling. Finishing 25th was better than what I had expected. But I couldn't help but hope that maybe it could have been better, after finishing one spot away from qualifying for the free skate."
She revealed that she had not expected to fare so well. She had a technical elements score of 30.31 and programme components score of 22.56.
"Going into this competition, I wasn't in my best shape. I just wanted to land my jumps and I didn't think it was possible to qualify for the free skate," she said.
"It was only after I got off the ice today that I realised that I could qualify, and then I got anxious.
"I knew it was a long shot anyway. Overall, I'm happy with my performance and my jumps, and it was one of my best programmes."
She revealed that her preparations leading up to the World Championships had not been ideal, as she was ill after the Asian Winter Games, and it forced her out of training for almost two weeks.
Last Friday, she had to change into a new pair of skates because her old ones were in bad shape, affecting her jumps, hurting her feet and causing her to wobble on the ice.
She said: "I was freaking out a little and thought, 'What if I cannot get used to them fast enough?', 'What if my jumps were still not feeling great?'
"But thankfully they felt pretty good after I skated two sessions."
She is based in Beijing and she will be back in Singapore next weekend for the Singapore National Figure Skating Championships.
Singapore Ice Skating Association president Sonja Chong said: "We aren't surprised at her performance as we know she is capable of performing at this level."