Any doubts they had over their ability to compete against their more-fancied rivals were blown out of the water as the Singapore women's dragon boat team made history by clinching their first senior medal at the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships.
In the 10-crew premier 200m race in Pattaya last Saturday, the team finished third in a time of 55.464sec, behind winners Thailand (52.105sec) and China (52.217sec).
Captain Vanessa Tan said: "It meant a great deal to the team and to the people behind us.
"Although we had our eyes on the podium before we set out for this race, we had our reservations and knew it was not going to be easy."
Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA) high-performance manager Chia Yi Liang added: "It validated the current training plans and showed us that we are heading in the right direction."
Their result prompted SDBA to submit an appeal to the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to send teams in the women's four-crew small boat event, men's 12-crew and four-crew racing and mixed racing teams to this year's SEA Games.
But they were not on the list of successful appeals released yesterday. An SNOC spokesman said the Games Appeals Committee is seeking clarification from SDBA on the selection criteria and the final squad list submitted.
Meanwhile, Tan, 24, said the paddlers will continue to train hard.
She said: "Consistency is key. As much as we could wish for the stars to align at every racing opportunity, the team are nothing without the constant base of people.
"Seeing so much potential in closing the gap is indeed comforting, but what matters most is that the passion to keep striving and to keep delivering persists."
Singapore's Junior A team, represented by National Junior College, also shone with a gold and two silvers in Pattaya.
They shocked Thailand to the gold in the women's small boat 200m race and added two silvers in the 2,000m and 500m events.
The contingent's success ended a decade-long medal drought for Singapore at the biennial world championships organised by the International Dragon Boat Federation.
At the 2009 edition in the Czech Republic, Singapore clinched the World Junior overall title after bringing home four gold, three silver and one bronze medals.
That performance was meant to serve as a springboard for the sport but the SDBA struggled to keep the promising paddlers in the sport.
Since then, the association has focused on youth development. As many of their paddlers are students, SDBA has a flexible training programme with low training tempo and hours during exam periods.
It also offered its athletes various options like team management, powerboat piloting and race officiating to cater to those who lose interest in racing.