'I couldn't even stand': Singapore windsurfer Amanda Ng overcomes injury to earn spot in Tokyo Olympics
SINGAPORE: Just 24 hours before what would be one of the most important competitions of her life, Singapore windsurfer Amanda Ng could neither stand nor walk.
She slipped and fell while carrying her windsurfing board up the steps, during her final training session two days before the start of the competition in Oman.
Her performance at the Mussanah Open Championship would determine whether she gets to compete at the Tokyo Olympics.
"I twisted my knee during the fall. We couldn't confirm what the injury was because I only took an X-ray. But when I spoke to Dr Ben Tan (former Singapore Sailing president) ... he suspected an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear," she told CNA.
"I must have cried non-stop for a few hours. I really thought that was it. I couldn't even stand, I couldn't even walk. I was like - 'I really don't think I can race'."
Waking up the next day, things still looked grim.
"I was (trying to be) positive, (telling myself) it is going to be better. But it was still so painful and I was just like 'oh my goodness, the race is tomorrow."
Despite the injury and having to be wheeled to her boat before each race, the 26-year-old managed to earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympics after finishing first in the RS:X women's class on Thursday (Apr 8).
READ: Sailing: Singapore's Ryan Lo and Amanda Ng qualify for Tokyo Olympics after wins at Mussanah Open
The Mussanah Open Championship served as the Asian qualifiers for the Olympics.
Ng's bid to qualify for the Games got off to a shaky start, as she ended last in her first race on Apr 3.
Speaking to CNA on the phone from Oman, she said: "I was just trying to get a placing, a finish rather than a DNF (Did Not Finish) so that I could fight back once my knee got better."
But things took a turn for the better.
"The knee really improved over the next few days, and that's when I had more confidence to put weight on it, use it and start sailing properly," she said.
"(I was supported by) everyone back home, all their care and concern, my church community was really praying for me, and over here everyone was so supportive ... trying to help me, push me around in a wheelchair."
Ng's injury meant that her coach had to help set up her equipment on her behalf, and she was wheeled to the boat at the start of each day.
"Basically, my coach rigs up and he launches for me. Somebody would push me to the marina, the pontoon, and get me into the powerboat and that's where I would meet my coach," she said.
Ng, who had to finish first in her event to qualify for the Games, saw off a challenge from the Philippines' Charizanne Napa and came out tops in her medal race on Thursday. She also won seven out of 12 previous races.
"On the second day when I got my first bullet (won the race), and I think that was the turning point," she explained.
"I realised that this is really possible, there's still enough races to fight back. I'm so close to her still. Over the first few races, I realised that there's pain but my knee is not going to just pop out. I can put weight on it, it's okay. Just bear with the pain."
This will be Ng's second Olympics, having competed in the 2016 edition of the Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she finished 20th in the women's 470 event together with Jovina Choo.
"I'm really excited to see how I perform at the Olympics. I've been training very hard and it's really just excited to be able to go to the Games," she said.
Along with Ng, laser sailor Ryan Lo also earned a spot in this year's Tokyo Olympics after winning his event in Oman on Thursday.
Lo won five of the 10 races during the first five days of fleet racing, finishing 7th in the medal race on the final day.
Lo and Ng will join compatriots Kimberly Lim and Cecilia Low who have already qualified for the 49erFX event in Tokyo. The Olympics, which was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, starts on Jul 23.
"Honestly after the medal race ... I just felt so relieved. It's been such a long week since the fall until now. I'm really just so grateful for all the help and support that helped me get through this injury," said Ng.
"Everyone around me, Ryan, our coaches, they have been so positive, just helping me reset my mind, and being like 'you still have a chance, just keep fighting, just keep fighting.' That really helped."
While Ng had to be wheeled to the podium during the victory ceremony and was not able to set foot on the highest step to receive her glittering gold, she had achieved what had she set out to do.
She had made the cut.