Five months after Christy Suriadi missed qualifying for the SEA Games triathlon squad by one place, she was notified by her association that she would represent Singapore at the SEA Games. Although the news came as a last-minute surprise, Suriadi is ready to make a splash at her debut Games come 21 August in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

After Christy Suriadi came up one place short of making the SEA Games team in January’s selection trials, she aimed to qualify for the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games. The 20-year-old continued about her training schedule as per usual, traveling throughout the region to get more triathlon experience.

One of those meets was the New Taipei ASTC Triathlon Asian Cup, where she finished ahead of fellow Singaporean Winona Howe, the top female at the SEA Games selection trials.

That result proved crucial in the Triathlon Association of Singapore’s (TAS) decision to nominate Suriadi to the SEA Games squad five months after her “huge disappointment.” Howe did not meet the association’s requirements to seal a final nomination for the Singapore National Olympic Council’s (SNOC) approval and was subsequently dropped from the team.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Suriadi, who has dreamt of competing at the Games ever since she picked up swimming when she was 11.

She lived with the disappointment of missing the squad by one place for almost half a year before the TAS contacted her with the good news. Her family had to shoulder additional costs due to the sheer amount of gear the triathlon demands of its athletes – gear, overseas races, coaching fees, etc.

Additionally, she also had to overcome a horrific cycling accident from October 2014 that left her bedridden and in a wheelchair. Even after Suriadi completed her rehab, she had to convince her mother to let her ride again.

“Every day, I would be like, ‘Please, can I go cycling today? Can I go? I’ll be really careful!’” said Suriadi. After a good amount of pleading, her mother relented. Now, her parents fetch her to the drop-off point for her cycling training instead of having her bike there from home.

In a week, Suriadi has to squeeze in five swim sessions, three bike sessions, and four running sessions. She typically starts her day at 7 a.m., where she spends an hour and a half in the pool before heading straight to class. After Suriadi finishes school at 3 p.m., she runs for 45 minutes, has dinner around 6 p.m., then works on her assignments before sleeping at midnight latest.

Her busy schedule as a student-athlete means that she mostly practices on her own, but she makes sure to join her team and her coach, Eugene Lee of Second Wind Academy, three times a week for key workouts.

Suriadi is so settled into her training cycle year-round that the last-minute call-up to the SEA Games squad did not catch her off guard. More telling of her dedication to the sport was her long pause as she pondered what sacrifices she has made for her passion.

“I really don’t know,” said the Year 3 Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, who later conceded that she thrives on nine hours of sleep instead of the six she has been getting due to her recent workload.

Representing the nation at major Games can be daunting for some athletes, particularly for first-timers. Not a problem for the cheery Suriadi, who believes that pressure diminishes performance.

Her solution to suppressing pre-race jitters? Consciously smile more, soak up the race atmosphere and simply be in the moment.

“When you’re smiling a lot, it relaxes your entire body,” she said. “You can have a cheerful disposition and socialize with everybody. It helps calm me down.”

Suriadi still aims to qualify for the Asian and Commonwealth Games, but now she has loftier goals. Namely, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She also wishes to meet her idol, American triathlete Gwen Jorgenson. Like Jorgenson, both of them share a swimming background and excel most in the run portion.

“I would tell her how much she has inspired me in the sport and how much I enjoy watching her race, especially when she comes in a little behind on the bike and the swim but she manages to catch up and overtake everybody on the run,” said Suriadi.