SINGAPORE - She started practising muay thai 15 years ago and has represented Singapore in international competitions since 2010, but Lena Tan has never stood on a podium before.
The 32-year-old made a golden breakthrough on Tuesday (Dec 11) when she beat India's Vaishali Shiv by referee stoppage in the senior female bantamweight (54kg) final of the IFMA Asian Muaythai Championships in Macau.
While the game plan of hard low kicks worked, the road to success has been longer in the making - she changed her diet and training regimen since 2015 after consulting other international fighters.
The marketing manager told The Straits Times: "I got more involved with strength and conditioning and am blessed to have found The Pit Singapore. I used to dead lift 80kg but now I have a best of 120kg.
"This helps me to be more stable during fights while my punches and kicks are more powerful.
"I have also learnt a lot more about nutrition and started to eat cleaner as I cut down on fried food and dessert. That helps in more effective training."
After earning Singapore's only gold, she said it is "back to the drawing board" in a bid to do the Republic proud at next year's SEA Games in the Philippines, where muay thai will be a medal sport.
Lee Dejun added a senior male lightweight (60kg) silver and Cheryl Gwa a bronze in the senior female light flyweight (48kg) at the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur event, which featured 34 countries and 125 athletes.
Amateur Muaythai Association Singapore president Clement Ong hailed it as a historic moment and thanked the Singapore Sport Institute, Sport Singapore and the likes of Novena Global Lifecare Group and SL Foods for their support.
He said: "The success of Lena and her teammates augurs well for the sport in Singapore.
"We owe so much to our sponsors and supporters as we seek to fulfil our vision for local athletes to compete at the highest level and promote the fundamental values and ethics of muay thai."