SINGAPORE - Kampton Kam has experienced numerous highs and lows throughout his fledgling career as a high jumper, but it is this year's roller coaster of emotions which the 17-year-old feels has most contributed to his growth as an athlete.
In a year where he jumped higher than he ever had and qualified for the Youth Olympic Games, he also struggled with injury. Of his seven competitions this year, he participated in four of them while injured.
While he admitted this was not ideal, he said: "I guess all of this has added to my competition experience and helped me (become) stronger mentally, because sometimes it's really mind over matter."
In March, he won the Schools National A Division title with a personal best (PB) of 2.02m (from 1.96m) despite carrying a back injury and falling sick before the meet.
A week later, still ill, he won gold at the South-east Asia Youth Athletics Championships in Bangkok.
The Victoria Junior College student set two more PBs, 2.03m in June and 2.05m the following month, before the July Asean Schools Games (ASG). In Kuala Lumpur, he cleared 2.10m en route to gold and setting national Under-18 and U-20 records.
For his achievements, Kampton has received The Straits Times' Young Star accolade for school athletes who shone during this year's schools competitions. The award is backed by F&N's 100Plus.
Recalling how his mother had urged him not to compete at the National School Games with a bad back and fever, he explained the reason for his insistence.
"I really love the sport and every time I jump, I get this sense of accomplishment and satisfaction," he said. "I just wanted to represent my school. Even if I didn't get a medal or a PB, at least I can say I tried."
This persistence in part led to his success at the ASG. It had come down to a battle between him and Malaysian Amer Haiqal Ismail, whose best of 2.07m was higher than his 2.05.
Said Kampton, who recalled feeling "unsure" if he could prevail: "Both of us were jumping above 2m and every jump was exhilarating because we knew we could give each other a good fight.
"I knew I just had to continue fighting if I wanted the gold medal."
What he gained from that experience, he added, is this: "Even though athletes may have higher PBs than you, on the day itself, it comes down to the competition and you cannot say for sure who will win until it's over.
"From then, I realised that you just have to keep persevering and never lose hope."
ST sports editor Lee Yulin hailed Kampton's doggedness, saying: "Many athletes are talented but success belongs to the few who make the most of their talent through hard work, persistence and a never-say-die attitude.
"Kampton's passion for his sport and dedication to his school are exemplary and we are pleased to honour him with this award."