SINGAPORE - Ruben Loganathan had given up on winning a medal in the Schools Nationals A Division boys' 3,000m steeplechase on Monday (March 25), after the bell was mistakenly sounded one lap too early at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
Upon hearing the bell, signalling the start of the final lap, the 17-year-old and his competitors had sprinted through what they thought was the last lap, only to be told there was one more to go.
The Anderson Serangoon Junior College (ASRJC) student continued running and eventually won the race, but officials then decided that the race had to be re-run.
While disappointed, Ruben picked himself up and won the second race on Thursday at the National Stadium in 10 minutes 24.84 seconds. Hwa Chong Institution's Joshua Rajendran (10:36.91) and Raffles Institution's Armand Dhilawala Mohan (10:48.21) were second and third respectively.
Ruben said on Thursday: "I gave up on winning a medal (on Monday)... I was really happy to finish first that day, until I realised we had to run again.
"But today was a good race, one I've been planning for the past four days. I don't have a (track and field) team in my school, but the fact that I have my family, friends and teachers supporting me - that's the reason I was so hungry for the win."
Track and field is not an official Co-Curricular Activity at ASRJC, and Ruben does most of his training alone, occasionally running with a group called the Kampong Runners.
This group, comprising working adults as well as some of Ruben's former teammates from Guangyang Secondary School, are a second family to him.
Explaining that a key challenge in doing most of his training alone is keeping himself motivated, Ruben said: "I'm thankful to have my friends who keep me disciplined; they manage their time well and these are traits they pass on to me as well.
"With such busy lives, they still fit in a run so it (tells) me that no matter how busy or tired you are, if you love something you have to do it."
His focus is now on next month's Schools National Cross Country Championships, where he is the A Division boys' defending champion.
Yesterday's runner-up Joshua will also next compete at the cross country race, where he is aiming for a podium finish.
The 16-year-old believes the steeplechase gaffe turned out to be in his favour as he had made "quite a few mistakes" during his race on Monday, but added: "I won't always have second chances, so next time I'll try to run a bit better.
"I won't always have competitors beside me to gauge where I am, I just have to go for it."
Singapore Athletics' vice-president (competitions organising) S. Govindaraju told The Straits Times the mistake was the result of a miscommunication between the SA technical official counting the number of laps and the one recording the number of laps.
He then consulted representatives from the Ministry of Education and the schools involved, apologising and explaining that the rules allowed for athletes to re-run the race on a different day.
"There was a serious mistake and it affected the athletes' performance overall," he added.
"We have to ensure that the lap recorder and lap counter are on the same side of the track and close to each other, to make sure this doesn't happen again."