Stories of Ambitions

Inspiration, inner
strength and dealing
with uncertainty

We caught up with Mark Chan, Singaporean climber and aeronautical engineering student, to see how he’s adapting to the challenges imposed by covid-19 and the postponed Olympics.

May 19, 2020
It’s been a year since the training camp. What did you take away from it?

It definitely made a lasting impression. It’s on this and other trips to Japan that I’ve seen the ‘Climbers Bible’ and learnt how form is the foundation of everything else. I saw how this process and structure could translate into better climbing, with more efficient technique saving my arms from tiring. I learnt to trust the process and the outcome will follow. I came away from the trip inspired and it really renewed my passion for the climbing journey I was on.

You sound a true engineer! So what came next for you?

I continued to train with the federation coaches. But while my technique had improved, my physical strength wasn’t where it needed to be. I had to start working hard off the wall on my power. This helped me spot and eliminate the weaknesses I was finding on the wall. It was simple really, to progress the way I wanted to, I needed to be stronger.

How has it been moving from youth to senior competitions?

It was difficult. I just tried to get my head down and work on my weaknesses, looking back though this is where I’d started to put too much pressure on myself, and this really hit me when I started to compete. I had been working hard for the Asian Championships in Indonesia and Asian Youth Championships in China. But it didn’t come together for me. I couldn’t get into the groove. I knew it was my last year in youth, I felt the pressure and I pushed myself too hard.

Sounds like a tough time you’ve been facing. Was there anyone in particular that you turned to?

I appreciate now the pressure top level athletes must face, and how important having the right people around you is. In this period, I turned to the support of my coaches and a sport psychologist to help me deal with the pressure and believe in myself again. This helped and I started to turn things around.

You have been injured quite seriously recently. How badly did the injury set you back?

I hyperextended my knee in training, it meant I had to take 3 weeks complete rest and rehabilitate before I could get back to full training. Worst of all though, it meant I couldn’t compete. I was disappointed in myself. I was training hard for a local competition, and I felt good for it. But I didn’t get to compete in what might be the only one this year.

Right now, I would have been in final prep for the Asian Championships in Japan. 

Almost all competitions, including the Olympics are now cancelled or postponed because of covid-19. How has this impacted you?

Right now, I would have been in final prep for the Asian Championships in Japan. But with everything cancelled, the final qualification spot for Tokyo may go to a South Korean athlete. I didn’t even get the chance to fight for a spot – I didn’t get my shot, it would have still been good experience to prepare me for the next cycle.

That must be heartbreaking. Despite these tough times, what are your future plans?

I just want to get back to enjoying climbing and training, in the meantime I’ll be trying to build back strength in my knee however I can. But I can’t wait to get back to work on the speed wall and auto-belay JLL put in my gym.

It’s at times like this that the support from sponsors like JLL is so important. In the coming months I’ll have to completely rethink how I train and stay fit. And as soon as I can, I want to travel back to Japan for more training. I’m curious to climb back into the smart suit and see how my technique and performance has changed since the last time. 

See more of Mark’s story of ambition in our short film here and stay up to date with all of our climbers’ progress as we follow their journeys throughout the year

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