SINGAPORE - Just four days before his Paralympic debut, tandem cyclist Steve Tee and his pilot Ang Kee Meng crashed during a routine warm-up session in training after their front tyre burst.
While being carried off on a stretcher, Tee's first thought was "I hope it's not over".
Luckily, he only suffered a bruise on his bum and abrasions on his hip, while Ang had scratches on his elbows and knees while an old wrist injury was aggravated.
The fall did little to dent their confidence though as they made their Paralympic debut in style, setting a personal best of 4min 40.453sec in the men's B 4,000m individual pursuit on Wednesday (Aug 25). They finished ninth out of 14 pairs overall.
In the third heat, Tee and Ang beat Hungary's Robert Ocelka and pilot Gergely Nagy who clocked 4:42.401.
Tristan Bangma and pilot Patrick Bos of the Netherlands, who won the heats in a world record time of 3:59.470, won the gold ahead of British defending champion Stephen Bate and pilot Adam Duggleby. Poland's Marcin Polak and Michal Ladosz beat France's Alexandre Lloveras and Corentin Ermenault in the bronze medal race.
In tandem para-cycling, a visually-impaired athlete, called the stoker, is paired with a sighted counterpart, or the pilot.
Tee, 40, said: "(After the crash) we tried not to focus on negative thoughts and focused on the positive things we can do.
"Everything came back to square one as our main aim is to compete in the Paralympics no matter what happens, whether it's Covid-19 or injuries or a crash that hits us, we just want to carry on."
He and Ang, who have been cycling together since 2017, were also pleased to achieve their goal of improving their previous fastest time of 4:47.414 set at the 8th Para Asian Track Championships 2019 in Jakarta and finishing in the top 10.
The pair had a final training camp in Wales before heading to Tokyo. Tee was there for nine weeks while Ang was in Cambridge since early March before meeting Tee.
Ang, 34, said that before going to Wales, the pair did not expect to lower their personal best by seven seconds.
He said: "People might say that seven seconds is a short time, but to some top-end athletes, to improve that 0.5 or one second takes them years of training.
"For us to jump that far, I think it's really proof that the journey has been great and coming to Tokyo to fulfil this part of the journey is a good feeling.
"It was also great to see... the Singapore cycling community coming together to cheer us on.
"We're building towards a better engine for both of us. For the other two events, we know we have the engine so although they're not our pet events, we will do the best we can."
They next compete in the men's B 1,000m time trial and men's B time trial (road cycling) on Saturday and next Tuesday respectively.