JAKARTA - Sheik Ferdous Sheik Alau'ddin remembers returning from silat competitions overseas with his team-mates, some of whom had medals around their neck as they walked out of Changi Airport.
"Then there was me, wearing only this," he said, chuckling as he looked at his accreditation pass.
The 22-year-old will leave the Asian Games with a medal around his neck this time and it could well be gold, after he defeated Malaysia's Sobri Muhammad Robial 5-0 in the Class I (85-90kg) semi-final on Sunday (Aug 26).
He will face home favourite Pamungkas Aji Bangkit in Monday's final.
Silat has been included at the Asiad as a medal sport for the first time, and Singaporean Nurul Shafiqah Mohd Saiful clinched the Republic's first medal in the sport (a joint-bronze) after losing 4-1 to Vietnam's Tran Thi Them in the women's Class B (50-55kg) semi-final on Sunday.
But the day's bragging rights belonged to Ferdous, whose bout was a drama-filled affair, with the majority Indonesian crowd at the Padepokan Pencak Silat TMII venue jeering Sobri towards the end after he kicked Ferdous in the back, an illegal move.
The kick drew a furious reaction from Ferdous' supporters, which included his father Sheik Alau'ddin and team-mate Alfian Juma'en.
Said Ferdous of the incident: "I could see (my opponent's) frustration because my game plan meant he couldn't touch me at all... I started thinking of the times my dad and coaches prepared me for (moments like this) so I wouldn't feel pressure and start shaking.
"I managed to compose myself and I saw the kick coming and braced myself for it. After he kicked, I thought, 'Ah, he actually did it... I'm just going to take this time to absorb the pain'.
"I expected him to do that but now I feel better. After you win, you forget your injuries."
He did not have the ideal mindset entering the ring, following his younger brother Farhan's 5-0 loss in the Class J (90-95kg) semi-final to Vietnam's Nguyen Van Tri.
Ferdous admitted that he had been shocked and a little panicked when Farhan, a two-time world champion, lost.
"It's pretty much always been my brother who was going to win gold for Singapore and when I saw him lose, I was like, 'I really cannot lose because I don't want Singapore to come back with no golds'," said Ferdous, who ran to the stands to embrace his father after winning.
"I'm really proud of myself because this is my first time reaching the final (of a major Games)... I was hoping my brother and I could both be in the finals, but I guess now I have to be the one who gets the gold for Singapore."
In his characteristically deadpan manner, SEA Games champion Farhan said of his loss: "It was a very bad performance overall... I had a lot of opportunities to capitalise on, but I didn't take my chances."
But the 20-year-old is confident his brother can win the gold, noting: "He's improved a lot and winning the (earlier) fights show that he can be a champion."
Ferdous added: "When I see my younger brother winning, I'm proud of him and happy. I'm not jealous but, at the same time, I'm thinking, 'When is it going to be my turn?'."
In two days, perhaps.