At 14, Tan Sze En was too young to compete at the SEA Games gymnastics events last year as the minimum age was 16.
But at the Singapore Open Gymnastics Championships yesterday, the 15-year-old showed that she has the quality to outshine older and more experienced gymnasts.
The Raffles Girls School secondary four student flipped and tumbled her way to win gold in the floor exercise, scoring 13.600 points. She beat SEA Games silver medallist Rifda Irfanaluthfi of Indonesia (13.000) and Nur Eli Ellina Azmi (12.600), who was part of the Malaysian team that won SEA Games gold last year.
The all-around champion also finished second in the other apparatus finals: balance beam (13.050), uneven bars (12.500) and vault (12.550).
Yet it was not the results earned at Bishan Sports Hall that gave her the most satisfaction. Instead, she was most pleased about the steely composure she had shown while performing her routines.
She said: "Last time, my father would say that I look really nervous. But I think in this competition, I managed to be more relaxed and calm and just enjoyed the competition. I'm getting more used to the nerves and the competition pace."
By perfecting and honing her routines under pressure, she has gained greater confidence.
Sze En, who also competed at the Pacific Rim Championships in Washington in the United States in April, said: "I have a new bar routine and this is the first time I didn't make mistakes or fall.
"My coach always says that I lack competition and I need to compete more to gain experience."
Said Singapore Gymnastics president Choy Kah Kin: "After the first half of the year, this is the first assessment for them before they go for overseas competition."
Sze En and team-mate Nadine Joy Nathan will travel to Portugal to compete at the June 23-36 World Challenge Cup in Anadia.
Singaporean Zeng Qiyan came in third in the uneven bars final, while Nadine had to withdraw from the finals due to a hard landing she took on Saturday. Zeng, 19, who was part of the women's team who won silver at last year's SEA Games, relished the chance to compete.
The Republic Polytechnic student said: "Every competition, including the local ones, are important and precious to us because for gymnastics, we don't really have a lot of competitions as compared to other sports."