“What do I like about the hurdles? That’s a hard question to answer. I think I like the ability to push through the pain. The 400-metre hurdles can be an extremely painful event, and on a bad day, the lactic acid kicks in and you just hit the wall.

But on a good day, you find the strength to pull through as everyone else fades behind you, and that’s an amazing feeling. That translates to life in some metaphorical sense – going through the struggle and digging deep to get to the other side.

I was actually bullied in primary three for being a slow runner on my track and field team. In spite of that, I managed to get into the Singapore Sports School when I was in primary six. I was part of the first batch of intakes, but I still considered myself to be awfully slow.

I remember my old coach asking us what our goals were. Everyone said the Olympics, but I wasn’t sure about that. He said, ‘Come on Dipna, up your expectations a bit.’ When I did make it to the London Olympics in 2012, I messaged him about that old conversation we had.

I think I broke all mental barriers that held me back when I won bronze at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar. I clocked in the fastest time since the national record set 43 years ago, and to establish myself as one of the best in Southeast Asia was very important for me.

This year, however, I’m approaching the SEA Games from a place of gratitude. I was very sick, and my blood count was very low. My health was basically deteriorating for the past month.

I’m slowly recovering,  and I was in full panic mode because it felt like I had to make up for so much lost time. But now, I’m at a place where I’m just so happy to still be pursuing my dreams and representing my country.

People assume athletes are super humans leading these wonderful, perfect lives, but look beyond the timings and the colour of the medals, and you’ll find real people facing real struggles. Yet, we still push on somehow. That, in itself, is an accomplishment.” – Dipna Lim Prasad, 26

Interview by: Arman Shah