A bold gamble paid off for Singapore teenager Matthew Yap at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships on Sunday.
He set a new world squat record of 208kg in the men's Under-66kg sub-junior division (14- to 18-year-olds) in Minsk, Belarus. The previous mark was 207.5kg, set by Sweden's Eddie Berglund in Texas last year.
On his first attempt, Yap, 18,experienced a slight cramp on his way to lifting 190kg.
Then, in order to rest and minimise the chances of another vastus medialis oblique cramp, he skipped his second try, thus risking a non-medal finish if he had failed on his third and final effort.
Still, he brushed aside the pressure and remained "quite focused" and "mentally prepared".
He said: "When I unracked the bar, I was praying as hard as I could to not cramp up at all.
"After I racked back the bar (and got the world record), there was a huge relief and I was very emotional. I remember just tearing up and being super thankful.
THE LONG ROAD TO MINSK
After (breaking the world record) I was very emotional. I remember just tearing up and being super thankful.''
MATTHEW YAP, who funded his trip by working 10-hour shifts in a cafe.
"I was thinking of all the obstacles we had to face and overcome. At that moment, nothing could break me."
Yap's road to glory was filled with hurdles. In order to fund his trip to the Eastern European country, he worked 10-hour shifts at a local Korean cafe during his school break for six days a week.
He said: "We had to save up about $5,500, including all my supplements and diets leading up to the competition, and my equipment also."
The first-year media production and design student at Republic Polytechnic also had to juggle the demands of school work and training. He goes to the Elevate Gym for about 15 hours a week.
Said the Asia/Oceania Powerlifting Championships Under-66kg sub-junior overall champion: "I would end my supplementary classes at around 4pm and I'd head to the gym to train till about 9pm.
"I'd head home at about 10pm and wake up at 5am, so I was very sleep-deprived.
"I was quite drained and I just couldn't focus (in school)."
Then, after reaching the Minsk National Airport with his elder brother Marcus, who is his coach, they were held up at immigration for three hours due to visa issues.
Things worsened when the organisers failed to provide transport as promised, thus forcing them to spend $60 on a taxi from the airport to their hotel.
"All these little things added up," said Yap, who admitted that he had been affected by the problems. "One thing that I learnt is that there will always be obstacles and I just need to learn to stay calm and know how to deal with it."
Clinching the world record saw Yap finish second overall (550.5kg) in the sub-junior category - first in squat, third in bench press (130kg) and sixth in dead lift (212.5kg).
Kazakhstan's Dmitriy Chebanov was the winner with 582.5kg, claiming one gold (bench press) and two silvers (squat and dead lift).
Another Singaporean, Zack Toh, won one silver (bench press) and three bronzes (dead lift, squat and overall) in the Under-59kg masters 1 division, while 17-year-old Kenji Loy clinched third place in the dead lift event of the Under-59kg sub-junior division.