Returning to racing after a nine-month hiatus was tough for national swimmer Quah Ting Wen, as she found herself enduring a rusty start to her International Swimming League (ISL) debut.
The days leading up to her arrival in Budapest, Hungary on Oct 11 were fraught with uncertainty and challenges after her initial flight plans were thrown into disarray.
After the chaotic few days, the 28-year-old, who competes for ISL team, DC Trident, took some time to evaluate her performance and identify areas to improve on, before she worked on fine-tuning her technique and skill work.
That proved to be a game changer as on Monday - less than two weeks after her first race - she broke the Singapore short-course record for the 50m freestyle when she clocked 24.26 seconds at the Duna Arena, eclipsing Amanda Lim's mark of 25.09sec set in 2014.
Quah told The Straits Times: "The first meet was kind of rough, I felt very rusty. It was just uncomfortable racing so I took a day after the meet to reflect because that was only one match.
"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon, and I knew I had to find a way to pick myself up and turn it around if I wanted to contribute to my team."
Setting a new national short-course record in the 50m free became a goal for Quah after she hit the sub-25sec mark several times earlier this year.
She said: "But it wasn't official and at the back of my mind, I knew I wanted it."
In Monday's race, she finished joint fourth with Cali Condors' Olivia Smoliga in Match Four of the 2020 ISL, behind NY Breakers' Kasia Wasick (23.43) and Iron's Ranomi Kromowidjojo (23.82) and Melanie Henique (23.88).
That performance was also a confidence boost for Quah, who is aiming to qualify for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
She is undoubtedly the nation's pre-eminent female freestyle specialist, holding the 50m (24.92sec), 100m (54.62) and 200m (1:59.21) long-course national records. Last year, she lowered the 50m mark twice and the 100m one four times.
"It (the record) gives me confidence. I knew whatever happened I was going to take the opportunity to come and race," said Quah of her decision to become the first Singaporean to join the ISL, a professional inter-team competition which is in its second season.
"Over the last few years, I've been confident in making decisions and understanding what I need mentally, emotionally and psychically, and it feels good to be able to speak up and take ownership of that. This is a bonus and adds to that confidence."