While he was the star of the local ultimate frisbee scene, Daryl Ho found himself struggling in warm-up matches ahead of the World Under-24 Ultimate Championships in Heidelberg, Germany last month.
It was his first international foray since he started playing five years ago and the Singapore mixed team were routed 15-2 rout by the United States, a world powerhouse.
"We were making a lot of mistakes and struggled to string our passes together," Ho said. "They were taller, bigger and stronger than us. The strong wind and temperature (19 deg C) were nothing like we were used to playing in."
The 23-year-old asked his coach for advice to fix his state of mind after making multiple mistakes.
Said coach Victor Tan: "We spoke about helping him replicate his form. He has the entire skill set and I just had to remind him before the game to do the small things right and reassure him from the sidelines. Slowly, he became more confident and was throwing long passes to his teammates."
Singapore went on to win their next three warm-up games.
During the world meet, the team topped their group unbeaten, beat Canada 15-11 in the quarter-finals but lost 15-6 to the US in the last four. In the bronze play-off, Singapore edged out Latvia 15-12 to claim a historic bronze medal.
FROM ANGER TO PRIDE
He switched to frisbee without my knowledge and I was very angry initially. But he has reached this level and is recognised for doing well internationally, so I am very proud of him.
JIMMY HO, Daryl's father, on his son switching from badminton to frisbee.
Ho was the team's top performer with 21 goals and 19 assists from 11 games to be ranked the seventh best player in the category.
For his feat, he was named The Straits Times' Star of the Month for July yesterday. The award is an extension of ST's Athlete of the Year prize, which was launched in 2008. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.
Said ST sports editor Lee Yulin: "This is the first time we have recognised an ultimate frisbee athlete for his achievements. And Daryl could not be a more deserving candidate, with his performance in Germany critical to Singapore's success."
This success has also won his father over. Growing up, Ho was a badminton player with hopes of playing for Singapore. He switched to frisbee after he failed to represent Temasek Polytechnic in the inter-varsity competition.
"I wanted to try a team sport and frisbee seemed like something my height might give me an advantage in," said the 1.87m Ho.
His father Jimmy added: "I've spent a lot on money on Daryl for badminton and he has been playing for about nine years since he was in primary school.
"He switched to frisbee without my knowledge and I was very angry initially. But he has reached this level and is recognised for doing well internationally, so I am very proud of him."
Having tasted the rewards of international success, Ho is aiming further. The business management student is hopeful of the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) confirming Singapore's request to participate in the 2020 World Ultimate & Guts Championships in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
Edmond Leong, president of the Ultimate Players Association (Singapore) added: "Daryl's determination and hard work have seen him play a pivotal role in the U-24 national team.
"We hope to see him continue scaling new heights with his teammates beyond the U-24 category in the upcoming world championships."