Matthew Yap isn’t your typical Singaporean teenager. In fact, the 18 year-old is already a rising star in the powerlifting world.
Just last year, he was the overall champion at the Asia/Oceania Powerlifting Championships, in the Under-66kg sub-junior category. This year, Matthew broke the world squat record at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus – hefty accolades for someone barely hitting adulthood.
The polytechnic student, whose dream is to influence the next batch of powerlifters, shares what it’s like to be bold in a society that often isn’t, and to pursue goals as long as they matter.
How did this whole journey begin?
My older brother, Marcus, who’s also my coach, is the reason why I’m doing this.
It started when I watched him take part in his first powerlifting meet. We were nobodies, but I was taken aback by the crowd – their enthusiasm and their eagerness were contagious. They kept egging Marcus on to make the lift. At that point, I told myself I had to do this.
Why choose powerlifting over other more popular sports?
I find this sport unique and more enjoyable. Since young, I’ve always wanted to be different, to do something distinctive from my classmates. I tried out basketball and gymnastics – even winning several medals from school competitions – but still, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt these were activities that simply helped to kill time, and I wanted something more challenging.
How do you think you have made it this far?
Besides coaching me, Marcus also has a team of athletes under him. Together, they provide an excellent support system for me to rely on, and I guess that gave me the guts to go all out – to just do it and never regret.
Although he’s the only coach, Marcus implements a system whereby those who are more experienced should help each other out. For example, if there’s a new athlete, we will train with him or her and help watch out for any wrong techniques.
We will then send footages of the training session to a Whatsapp chat group to allow everyone in the team to pass comments. From there, we learn what is right and wrong, and help guide and encourage each other.
I’ve also seen Marcus stressing out and losing sleep, while trying to come up with the most ideal training programme for me. Working hard is the least I can do to repay him.
Want to read more about Matthew’s powerlifting journey? Check out Men’s Health Sep’17 issue for the full story!