KUALA LUMPUR: Having to compete with 53 other young speakers at a prestigious international competition can be intimidating, but that did not deter Malaysian Marina Tan Hsien Wei in winning the top prize.
The 17-year-old former student of SMK Perempuan Methodist Penang has become the first Malaysian champion in the English Speaking Union (ESU) International Public Speaking Competition 2012, held at Dartmouth House, in London, on Friday.
She received a trophy and a return flight ticket to London to meet Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip in November.
With the theme "The Head or the Heart", Tan spoke on youth activism in her speech, titled "The Game Changers", in the grand final.
Tan described her success as being a mixture of surprise and pride.
"Hearing my name being called was such a relief and so unexpected," she said, adding that her mother, aunt and uncle screamed in delight when the results were announced.
She said the competition was definitely a confidence booster as she had to compete with the world's best young speakers.
"It was really fun and interesting to hear other people's speeches. Overall, it was a rewarding experience," she told the New Straits Times in a telephone interview here yesterday.
She said her nerves settled when she took the stage to deliver her five-minute speech in front of a crowd of 200.
Tan thought it would still have been good exposure if she had not won the top prize.
"I was pretty confident I had done well, but then again all of the speaker did well," she said before boarding a plane to Penang after an hour of arriving from London.
In the lead-up to the award, Tan said she had done extensive research using the Internet and spent hours on writing and practising her speech.
"All my sacrifices and preparations paid off handsomely in the end. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, teachers and friends for all the support they gave me."
On her future plans, she said she was in the process of applying for a full scholarship to study engineering or economics at colleges in the United Kingdom or the United States,.
The former head prefect advised young speakers to always stay on top of their game by researching their topics thoroughly before competing in public speaking competitions.
"Always be confident and find a topic that you strongly feel about. Making a speech is all about making an impression."