Short track speed skater Lucas Ng, 30, had neither intended to compete at this weekend's SEA Open Short Track Trophy, nor had he expected much from his races.
He had trained for only a month, during which his main focus was to regain his fitness so that he could last the duration of the 1,500m and 500m races.
On the first day of the competition on Saturday (Jan 5) at The Rink @ JCube, he was second in the 1,500m and won the 500m by 0.003 of a second.
Ng, who raised both arms and whooped in joy after being announced as the winner, told The Straits Times he had not expected to be that fast in his first competition after a nine-month break.
He clocked 45.845sec in the 500m and 2min 54.295sec in the 1,500m - compared to 44.489sec and 2:27.322 at his last tournament, the ISU World Short Track Championships in March 2018.
After coming in second to Australia's Luke Cullen (2:54.161) in the 1,500m, the pair faced off again in the 500m. Ng took the early lead, with Cullen in close pursuit, and he won in a photo-finish.
"I could feel he was neck and neck with me and at the very last corner. I knew there was only one thing I could do - stick close to the block so that I cover a shorter distance to the finish line," said the Singaporean, who raised funds for rescue dogs and helped out with his brother's event-management business during his nine-month break.
"When it comes to a close race like this, there's only one thing on your mind: keep pushing, keep going and don't look back."
Though he narrowly missed the SEA Games qualifying mark of 45.778, pegged to the bronze-medal time at Kuala Lumpur 2017, Ng hopes the other criteria, which includes his regional ranking, put him in good stead to compete at the end of 2019 in the Philippines.
Winter sports will feature at the biennial Games for the second straight edition, and he said he will see what he needs to do in order to be selected before planning his other competitions for the year.
Ng, who won two silvers in the 1,000m and 3,000m relay at the 2017 Games, added: "The SEA Games is one of the biggest events we have in the region, and to represent the country there is an honour so I'm working towards that."
Teammate Cheyenne Goh, who won the women's 1,500m and 500m yesterday, met the Games' 500m qualifying mark with her 48.691sec.
The 19-year-old, who took part at Pyeongchang 2018 as Singapore's maiden Winter Olympics representative, won two silvers and a bronze in 2017 and hopes to win another medal this year.
"Ideally, I'd like to win gold," added Goh, who will compete in the 1,000m today. "Having competed (at the SEA Games) once, I know what it's like and I know what's coming, I can prepare and try to do as well as I can."