Powerlifting: Duo back home after Belarus visa mix-up

Powerlifter Matthew Yap greeting his grandaunt Mary Chua at the airport while his mother Ophelia Lim (second from right) looks on. Matthew returned with his brother Marcus (right). Singaporean Matthew Yap set a new world record with a 208kg squat in
Powerlifter Matthew Yap greeting his grandaunt Mary Chua at the airport while his mother Ophelia Lim (second from right) looks on. Matthew returned with his brother Marcus (right). ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Powerlifter Matthew Yap greeting his grandaunt Mary Chua at the airport while his mother Ophelia Lim (second from right) looks on. Matthew returned with his brother Marcus (right). Singaporean Matthew Yap set a new world record with a 208kg squat in
Singaporean Matthew Yap set a new world record with a 208kg squat in the Under-66kg sub-junior division at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships last Sunday.PHOTO: INTERNATIONAL POWERLIFTING FEDERATION

Brothers were stranded for two days and had to raise funds for flight after world-record feat

There were emotional scenes at Changi Airport Terminal 2 yesterday afternoon, when powerlifting brothers Matthew and Marcus Yap finally returned home after being stranded in Belarus for two days due to a visa mix-up.

What should have been a triumphant homecoming for 18-year-old Matthew - who set a new junior world record at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in the Belarusian capital of Minsk - became an anxious ordeal as they struggled to amass enough cash to purchase their returning plane tickets.

It was no wonder that their mother Ophelia Lim tearfully embraced both of them as they stepped out into the arrival hall and saw the comforting, familiar faces of relatives and friends.

"I'm thankful that they are back home and that they had a safe journey back," said Madam Lim, 47.

"There was anxiety and worry from the day they were stranded, even though I knew they were safe, as we were communicating through WhatsApp.

"But when I saw them in person, all the anxiety was gone. I was overjoyed, and for all the hard work (they put in), I'm very proud."

GLAD TO BE BACK

It's a huge relief, I have to say, after being stranded and (the visa mix-up). We definitely feel very relieved to step on Singapore soil again. Through Facebook, we got a lot of encouraging comments which lifted our spirits during the moments when we felt helpless

POWERLIFTER MATTHEW YAP, on the roller-coaster ride of emotions he went through after the visa mix-up ordeal.

While Matthew and Marcus smiled as they soaked in the happy atmosphere, they admitted that the entire episode has left them in need of a good sleep.

Said Matthew: "It's a huge relief, I have to say, after being stranded and (the visa mix-up).

"We definitely feel very relieved to step on Singapore soil again. Through Facebook, we got a lot of encouraging comments which lifted our spirits during the moments when we felt helpless."

The brothers' roller-coaster ride of emotions began last Sunday, when Matthew set his world-record mark with a squat of 208kg in the men's Under-66kg sub-junior division.

However, as they were about to return home last Thursday, they were detained at immigration because they did not have the required visa. When they finally settled their visa problems, they missed their original flight home.

 

With just 100 Belarusian rubles (S$72) on them, the brothers tried to seek help via crowdfunding website Give.asia

A sum of $2,685 was quickly raised and they were able to fly home.

Said Marcus, 23, of the donations: "We are really lost for words, it's something we would not have imagined, and from the bottom of our hearts, we are really (thankful).

"Now, we really feel that Singaporeans can actually come together in times of need."

One of the contributors, Mr Nicholas Chia, 34, was at the airport to welcome the brothers home.

"I understand that powerlifting is still somewhat new in Singapore," said Mr Chia, a civil servant who donated $1,000 to tthe family directly..

"(The brothers) needed some help and were stranded there (in Belarus). I also felt that their mother would be very worried for them, so I stepped in to help contribute to the crowdfunding."

Matthew will be taking a short break from overseas powerlifting after this Eastern European adventure, but has left the door open to competing overseas again.

"We are going to take a little break, but definitely, we will compete more," said Matthew, who will be bulking up during his break before making the jump to a different age class next year.

"I'll definitely catch up on sleep, and then maybe go out for supper," he said.


Correction note: This story has been updated for clarity

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Powerlifting duo back home after Belarus visa mix-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe