She was the two-time defending wakeboarding champion, but Sasha Christian's road to her third SEA Games gold medal yesterday began on dry land.
A shin-bone fracture that ruled her out for six months last year meant that the Singaporean virtually had to learn her sport all over again when she returned to training early this year.
Plagued by nerves and "funny thoughts", she figured that the best medicine for those doubts is to simulate the feel of riding those waves on terra firma, to get her touches and confidence back.
On land, she would tie her handle to a pole and pretend she was wakeboarding - a practice that had started when she was still recovering from her injury.
She recalled: "(I kept thinking) 'What if this happens or what if that happens' and it was just a huge struggle to push those thoughts away.
"I've learned that I just have to remember how it feels like on the water and I have to mimic it whenever I can."
- Months Sasha Christian was out injured last year.
The dedication to her craft was rewarded with a third consecutive SEA Games wakeboard gold.
She scored 62.78 (21.09 for execution, 21.15 for intensity, 20.54 for composition) at Putrajaya's Water Sports Complex, for a convincing victory over Indonesia's Galuh Mutiara Maulidina (47.67) and fellow Singaporean Gooi Jia Yi (36.89).
Team-mate Mark Leong added a bronze medal when the waterskier finished third in the men's overall slalom, tricks and jump final.
Before the Games, Christian, 24, admitted that she had felt pressure due to her winning record at the regional meet but she managed to cope with the stress.
She said: "I think the pressure built up because obviously there's more expectation and everyone's (saying) 'oh, she'll be OK' but I'm still nervous.
"I think it's mostly (self-inflicted) just because I expect more from myself and I know that other people also expect it from me. But it's been really good in the sense that it helped me get a different perspective of this whole situation.
"Likewise for my injury - it made me have a completely different perspective of my sport and how I maintain myself over the months. I'm just pretty much not taking anything for granted."
Christian, winner of the 2009 Asian Wakeboard Championships, will compete in the team wakeboard event today, before defending her slalom title tomorrow and on Tuesday.
Confidence now boosted after completing her golden hat-trick, Christian is in buoyant mood.
"I feel like I'm back," she declared. "Now, even when my mind goes somewhere else, I know how to bring it back."