SINGAPORE - Singapore swimmer Samantha Yeo bagged two medals in two days at the ongoing South-east Asian Swimming Championships at the Sports Hub's OCBC Aquatic Centre.
But the medal haul - one gold, one silver - was not the only reason for the spring in her step.
Last week, the 17-year-old received confirmation that the University of Michigan had granted her a partial, performance-based, sports scholarship.
The breaststroke specialist will stop her Year 5 studies at Raffles Institution and head to the United States in August.
Said the holder of the national Under-17 records for 100m and 200m breast: "It was not an easy decision but one I had to make to balance both high-performance swimming and a good academic foundation.
"It was getting increasingly difficult in Singapore. I was sacrificing a lot of rest and training time in Singapore, and I believe going to Michigan will help me strike a balance. It was important to have the support of my parents and coach, and I believe I can adapt to the new system."
Samantha will train under renowned coach Mike Bottom, who groomed US national swimmers Gary Hall Jr and Anthony Ervin.
She hopes the move will help her bounce back from dislocating her right knee in training last year, an injury that hindered her quest for gold at the Myanmar SEA Games.
A favourite for both breaststroke titles (100m and 200m) - her personal bests in the events were better than the 2011 SEA Games winning times - she managed a bronze in the 200m breaststroke in the end.
Said Samantha, who will be competing in next month's Commonwealth Games: "I feel like I've been improving since the SEA Games, and I'm sure I'll be able to reap the benefits of the stint."
Her coach at Swimfast Aquatic Club, David Lim, who worked with her to apply for colleges in the US from January onwards, believes the move will help her stay competitive and get a good tertiary education at the same time.
"What's important for Samantha now is to stay disciplined when she's there," he said.
"You have more freedom but you also need to be more independent and get used to being alone."
Other Singapore swimmers studying in the US include Joseph Schooling, Rainer Ng, Meagan Lim and Quah Ting Wen.
This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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