Athletics: ‘Small steps’ mantra helps jumper Kam to second national mark in a week

Kampton Kam cleared 2.08m to claim first place in the men’s high jump event at the Wesley A. Brown Invitational. PHOTO: KAMPTON KAM

Inspired by Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, Singaporean high jumper Kampton Kam developed his own mantra: To head in the right direction, one centimetre at a time.

Olympic, world and European champion Duplantis has been setting new standards since he was seven and has made breaking world records his trademark, literally and figuratively raising the bar in his sport. At the World Athletics Championships in July, Duplantis added a centimetre to his own world pole vault record to claim his first outdoor world title, soaring over 6.21 metres.

Kam’s motto of showing an improvement each time he competes has got him off to a perfect start in 2023, rewriting the national indoor record twice in the United States, where he is based, in the span of a week.

“I look to Duplantis as a source of inspiration,” said the 21-year-old, who competes for the University of Pennsylvania as a freshman.

“Every time he competes, he always goes one better than the last time. That is my goal – I want to get better each week and head in the right direction one or two centimetres at a time. The idea is to keep taking all these small steps and at the end, all the efforts will pay off.”

Kam set his latest 2.08m mark in winning gold at the Wesley A. Brown Invitational, held at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland on Saturday.

Exactly a week earlier, he had kicked off his collegiate athletics career with a bang when he leapt 2.06m at the Penn 10-Team Select in Staten Island, New York. That helped him claim gold and better his previous national mark that had stood since December 2021, by one centimetre.

Up next for Kam will likely be the Rutgers Open meet in New York next Friday.

Kam, who also holds the national outdoor Under-18 (2.10m), Under-20 (2.15m) and Under-23 (2.20m) marks, said that being aware of what he needs to improve on has also helped.

Currently, he has been working hard on perfecting his strides in the lead up to his leap.

“I have to keep looking at what I can get better in because the long-term goal is to get to the 2024 Olympics and to get there, I will need to hit 2.33m. For a high jump, the way you need to sprint is different from the usual sprint you would have in a race. My coach has been working with me on the way I run and each week I am coping better with that, “ he said.

While the Olympics are the ultimate dream, Kam’s immediate goal is to qualify for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Indoor Track and Field Championships to be held in New Mexico, in March.

To do so, he will need to be ranked as one of the NCAA’s top 16 indoor high jumpers. Currently, Kam’s 2.08m mark places him 57th.

And even as he is motivated and determined to keep improving, he is eager to enjoy the meets and competitions as they come.

He said: “I have waited a long time to come to the US and compete here. I am treating it seriously but, at the same time, I want to learn to have fun with it. I am getting to go to a lot of new places while on this journey and my coach has repeatedly told me to not worry and keep giving my best. And I aim to do just that in the years ahead.”

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