Singapore netballers dethrone Malaysia
It flashed through her mind, threatening to take root, and for a split second, it did.
The tentacles of fear - a primal sensation known to reduce its victims to stuttering shadows of themselves - started sinking into Premila Hirubalan, tapping on the memory of last Tuesday.
"On no, I thought, it's happening again. And I could feel it getting to me, getting me down, frustrated and angry," said the Republic's 34-year-old netball veteran.
"But I told myself I can't let it sink in."
Singapore crumbled in the final quarter of last week's preliminary-round match against Malaysia, losing a six-goal third-quarter lead to draw 35-35.
And yesterday in the final at a jam-packed OCBC Arena, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.
The Singapore women blew a five-goal lead, with scores tied at 39-39 and seven minutes left of the encounter.
But they dug deep, and this time, found a steely resolve that would carry them to a 46-43 victory - and with it, a first netball gold.
Malaysia struck gold the last time the sport was included in the biennial Games, in 2001.
In Premila's mind, it was goal attack Chen Huifen, who signalled the Singapore women's charge to the finish.
"There were a few minutes of shaky shooting, but then Huifen intercepted the ball, got it back herself and, still panting, she put the ball in," she said.
"That's when we knew we were going to win it."
It was Chen who missed the hosts' final opportunity to win last week's against Malaysia, but yesterday, when it mattered, she was icy cool.
"It was a big responsibility for the both of us, we had to shoot very well, and the team relied on us a lot," said goal shooter Charmaine Soh, standing arm in arm with Chen after the game.
Soh was a girl on fire in the final, scoring 38 of the team's 46 goals on the night, with a 79 per cent conversion rate.
"When I miss, she'll take it, and if she misses, I'll do it," said a beaming Chen, who checked out with a 73 per cent average.
Malaysia's shooters could not fire on all cylinders in three quarters yesterday, with Izyan Syazana (67 per cent) and Norashikin Kamal (71 per cent).
But that changed with the introduction of An Najwa Azizan in the fourth.
She fired three in a row at the start of the fourth, raising an index finger to the ceiling each time, and was also responsible for levelling things, even if only for a moment.
And Najwa vowed revenge in 2017, when the event is taken north of the Causeway.
Najwa pulled her shoulders back just a little bit more as she strutted onto the court for the medal ceremony, defiant even in defeat.
"Stand tall, girls, stand tall," she demanded.
"We wanted nothing else but the gold medal. It's unfortunate that it didn't happen, but we have no reason to be sad," said the precocious 17-year-old.
"If I'm playing in 2017, I'll make sure I'll bring that gold medal back."
For now, the Singapore women are content to just enjoy the win.
"We haven't lost to Malaysia in 12 years, and we still haven't - let them continue chasing.
"I'm sure they will go all out to win the next one," said Premila, who revealed that it is unlikely she will be on the courts in 2017.
"But even if us oldies (Premila, Chen and captain Micky Lin) aren't around in 2017, our girls have what it takes to confirm our dominance over them.
"Now I'm just going to enjoy this. I've waited 14 years for this medal - and it is sweet."