Even though she was more than 17,000km away from home, freediver Lim Anqi delivered a belated birthday present for Singapore yesterday as she set a new national record (62m) in the free immersion discipline at the Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques (CMAS) 2019 World Freediving Championships in Honduras.
The 36-year-old had initially planned to complete a 54m dive in the event to commemorate Singapore's 54th birthday.
But she decided to challenge herself after putting in a 65m dive - a national record and personal best in a competition - in last Friday's constant weight bifin discipline. She eventually finished ninth with her 62m dive.
Her national record was the fourth at the competition. She had also set new marks in the no fins (45m) and constant weight (60m).
"It was fabulous. I'm here with another Singaporean diver, (Chua) Shuyi, so Team Singapore is just the two of us," said Lim.
"To be able to receive so much encouragement from friends and family back home made us definitely feel like we wanted to do Singapore proud, and it being Singapore's National Day last week gave us more to celebrate for sure."
Chua finished 11th in the free immersion discipline after completing a depth of 50m.
Freediving is a form of underwater diving in which participants do not rely on breathing apparatus. Instead, they see how deep they can go on a single breath.
Ahead of the world championships, Lim competed in the Caribbean Cup in Honduras, where she set Aida (International Association for Development of Apnea) International national records in the constant weight no fins (47m), constant weight bifins (60m) and free immersion (60m) events.
CMAS and Aida International are the two main governing bodies for freediving and event records are marked separately.
With both competitions just two days apart, Lim said that putting in dives almost every day was mentally and physically strenuous. But she powered through, citing motivation from her friends and family, who had helped her raise the $6,500 needed for her trip.
She said: "I stretched myself but I was given the opportunity, so the least I could do was to do my best."
Being in the presence of some of the world's best divers also spurred her on, as one of her "favourite moments" was being able to witness Slovenia's Alenka Artnik and Italy's Alessia Zecchini claim the joint world record (113m) in the constant weight discipline last Friday.
With freediving still a relatively unknown sport in Singapore, Lim hopes that it will gain more recognition here.
There is little support for Singaporean freedivers to pursue the sport, which often requires athletes to train overseas, and she hopes Singapore will be able to send a larger team to future editions of the world championships.
Lim, a full-time freediver, is aiming to compete in more regional events, but said funding is an issue.
"Freediving is different from some other sports that can be trained for in Singapore," said Lim, who is on the hunt for corporate sponsors.
"Unless this sport is recognised more seriously on a higher level, many can't afford the time or money to do it. If there's enough support one day, there will be a bigger Singaporean presence at these big competitions."