KUALA LUMPUR - As the crowd tossed flowers onto the ice rink yesterday to salute newly-crowned SEA Games figure skating champion Yu Shuran, the Singapore teenager let out a deep sigh of relief.
Yu's delight at winning gold at the Empire City Mall - the first winter sports title at the biennial Games - was tempered by her perfectionist streak.
The 17-year-old said: "I had a very clear goal (to win gold) in mind. I knew what I wanted to do here and how I wanted to do it."
She achieved the first half of her ambition, delivering what appeared to be a flawless routine in the free skate round - alongside Lana Del Rey's Young and Beautiful followed by a remix of Beyonce's Crazy In Love - for a score of 82.24.
The result, when added to her 53.28 score in Saturday's short programme, gave her a winning total of 135.52.
Team-mate Chloe Ing, who garnered 45.68 in the short programme, had the highest free skate score of 82.93 and settled for silver with 128.61. Alisson Perticheto of the Philippines completed the podium with a 113.40 total.
The short programme in a figure skating competition features seven required elements and lasts no longer than 2min 40sec, while a free skate round lasts four minutes for women and can be made up of any combination of elements.
Despite her win, Yu said later that she was disappointed with her performance. She said she had "popped two jumps" - skating jargon for not completing the intended number of revolutions due to a mistimed jump - and felt her score should have been higher.
Part of that was dealing with the spotlight as the pre-Games favourite. Yu finished sixth at February's Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, the highest-placed skater from South-east Asia. She also competed at the World Figure Skating Championships a month later and finished a creditable 25th.
The Beijing-based Singaporean said: "It's a different type of pressure. Here, I'm one of the top (skaters). At the World Championships, I'm not very well known. It's nice to blend in the background and not have that outside noise."
She even had to cover her ears and hum to herself before her routine to ensure she did not get distracted by the announcement of Perticheto's score.
Her coach, Gao Song, attributed it to Yu being distracted by her skate boots. He said: "She tends to keep changing them and this latest pair, she just got them a week ago. It takes time to adjust. She made at least three to four mistakes today."
Yu had brought three boots - one for her left foot and two for her right landing foot - to Malaysia but said it was just a precaution.
Compatriot Ing was another searching for excellence. The 18-year-old was thrilled to complete a one-two finish for the Republic but felt she was still a work in progress. She said: "I had a few wobbles but it's nice we both won medals for our country."
Besides figure skating, ice hockey and short-track speed skating are making their SEA Games debut in Malaysia and Ing was hopeful these sports will return for the 2019 Games in the Philippines.
She said: "We've shown we have good skaters here and we want to continue bringing awareness of our sport to Singapore and the rest of South-east Asia.
"I hope everyone enjoyed watching me skate. That's the most important thing to me."
Judging by the flowers and stuffed toys that came from the two levels of appreciative spectators surrounding the competitors, it was a safe assumption everyone, including Yu, will remember yesterday's performance.
Highlights of figure skater
Yu Shuran's routine: http://str.sg/4HUb