Toh Wei Soong was racing against seven other swimmers in the men's 100m freestyle final of the World Para Swimming World Series yesterday, but his biggest opponent was himself.
He led the field with 957 points after the morning heats at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, but knew he could be overtaken by New Zealand's Cameron Leslie (902 points) after the final.
But Toh managed to overcome his anxiety and win Singapore's first gold medal in the event with 944 points, after finishing fifth in 1min 03.60sec. He was ahead of Uzbekistan's Islam Aslanov (940 points) and Leslie (923 points).
The seven-leg World Para Swimming Series, which is making a stop in Singapore for the first time, uses a standardised World Para Swimming points system to calculate athletes' results.
The overall World Para Swimming World Series winner must perform well over the series, meaning that every performance counts.
"I managed to contextualise my anxiety and told myself that it's good because it makes me think harder about how I can improve myself and swim the best race I can," said Toh, 20.
"In such a competition, you can't look at your competitors and think that you're going to come in faster than them. What matters is your points, so you have to swim against yourself.
"It's a happy moment for me, winning my first World Series medal, but I have to remind myself that it's only the first day... and I still have a long way to go this weekend."
He will also compete in the 50m freestyle S7, 400m freestyle S7 and the 50m butterfly S7 this weekend.
In the women's 100m breaststroke SB13 B final, Sophie Soon was first in 1:27.48, surpassing her previous personal best of 1:29.45.
She was third overall with 757 points. Despite struggling with her strokes during the heats, she calmed herself down for the final.
"The morning was a bit shaky for me because I was nervous so my strokes were a bit rushed, especially in the first lap," said the 21-year-old, who will also take part in the 200m individual medley this weekend.
"But, in the final, I was more cautious of the stroke length and I just took my time with it to make sure I got a good distance per stroke.
"Overall, it was a very solid race and I am quite happy with the way it turned out.
"I managed to get personal bests in the morning and in the evening, so I'm happy."
Meanwhile, China's Liu Dao Min set a world record in her class SB6 after clocking 1:33.36 to win the 100m breaststroke, beating the previous mark of 1:33.63 set by Britain's Maisie Summers-Newton. Liu finished second overall with 1,015 points.
New Zealand's Sophie Pascoe also set a world record in the S9 class in the 100m freestyle with her winning time of 1:00.36, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:00.91 set by Michelle Konkol of the United States. Pascoe finished first overall with 1,039 points.