SINGAPORE - Just days before Singapore swimmer Yip Pin Xiu flew off for the Tokyo Paralympics, nerves began to creep in.
A four-time Paralympian, it was unlike anything she had experienced before other major competitions and it got so bad that she could not sleep or eat properly.
On the eve of her opening race, the women's S2 100m backstroke on Wednesday (Aug 25), she told the Olympic Information Service: "Even though I've done this for 16 years, still having a 1½-year gap is very strange, it's very unsettling. I was having trouble sleeping, and just packing was making me nervous.
"Normally my nerves are not that bad before I leave. Four days before I left, I was having nervous poop, no appetite, but I know I have to eat. I was a nervous wreck. I had to talk to myself a lot, trying to figure out why I was nervous."
The past year has been filled with uncertainty and challenges as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted training plans and saw competitions around the world cancelled. Yip's last competitive meet was in January 2020, with her last major one the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, where she claimed two gold medals.
While there were time trials in Singapore, during which she went through the process of waiting in the call room and warming up before her "race", it was hard to fully replicate the experience of a competition setting.
The three-time Paralympic gold medallist, who will be defending her women's S2 50m and 100m backstroke titles, also grappled with the fear of not doing well in Tokyo.
The 29-year-old, the nation's most successful Paralympian, said: "When I was talking to myself a lot at home, I realised that it all boils down to just me being scared that I wouldn't perform well this Games.
"It's as simple as that. I just had to talk to myself to tell myself that training is going well and there's no reason why I wouldn't race well."
But there have also been some silver linings in this challenging period. The one-year delay due to the pandemic gave her more time to prepare for the Paralympics, especially after she went two months without swimming during the circuit breaker last year.
Yip had cried upon hearing that she would not be able to train in the pool for those two months as she was worried about how it would affect her progress. Once she returned to training, it took her months to build up her form and confidence.
And even though she will not have coach Mark Chay by her side in Tokyo, Yip feels she is ready to compete now.
She said: "I can honestly say that I wasn't ready to be at the sporting pinnacle then. Now I feel like it would be better if I had more time, like I will be best if I had one more month. But I'm as ready as I can be now.
"It (not having Chay with her in Tokyo) was hard when I left Singapore. But now that I'm here, I'm just taking away all distractions, just training, resting and seeing how I feel on race day.
"I'm raring to go. What comes will come and what happens will happen. I will take it. I think with these entire two years, I've really learnt to just take things as they come, especially if I can't change them."