SINGAPORE - Talent without passion and determination often leads nowhere.
It was 12 days before Putri Nur Syaliza's 15th birthday when she became the youngest footballer to play and score for the women's national team last March.
The forward also emerged top scorer in the Schools National girls' B Division championship last April.
But it was not an entirely smooth time for the 15-year-old, who had training six times a week.
"At some point, I felt like dropping everything because I was so tired. I just felt like giving up," said the Queensway Secondary School Secondary 4 student, who is one of five nominees in the running for The Straits Times Young Athlete of the Year award.
"I had to force myself to concentrate in school and not fall asleep during lessons."
She soldiered on thanks to the strong support from both her family, who encouraged her to keep going, and her school, which helped her juggle her busy sports and academic schedules.
Her success as a footballer has come as a surprise to her.
"I'm a girl and, in football, for a girl to be successful is not very conventional," said Putri, who dreams of playing for an overseas club one day.
Determination and passion are traits she shares with Ryan Chong and his Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) teammates.
Table tennis was not an official co-curricular activity (CCA) when they entered the school last year.
But the boys had been training together since they were in Primary 3. Two weeks before the South Zone C Division competition, they put together a team of eight, just one more than the minimum number required to participate, and finished third.
They faced many challenges such as having to juggle their school work, table tennis training and other CCAs that they had signed up for.
"We worked very hard. We were very serious during training and went for practice competitions so that we could improve," said 13-year-old team captain Ryan.
The team's pioneering members - Ryan Chong, Silas Chua, Ethan Ong, Ryan Eng, Benjamin Wee, Ethan Chua, Ryan Tan and Seth Wong - are now part of a 21-member CCA with 12 school team players and nine recreational players.
Their medal and the impact it left on their school has also earned them a nomination for the Young Athlete of the Year award.
The three other nominees are high jumper Kampton Kam, hockey player Sean See and floorball player John Alicante Embile.
The award, which is an extension of the ST Athlete of the Year award, will be given out tomorrow.