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S’pore powerlifter Matthew Yap promised late grandma, his biggest fan, he would keep Asian title


This is pro wrestler and MMA champion Brock Lesnar. He’s a huge man, 1.91m tall and weighing about 120kg.

Now imagine an 18-year-old lifting him up into the air.

Sounds unbelievable? Singaporean powerlifter Matthew Yap lifted roughly the equivalent weight of not one, but two Brock Lesnars at a competition on Dec. 5.

Yap set the previous world record himself back in June this year, at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus.

But in Kerala, India at the Asian Classic Powerlifting Championships, he smashed his own record and set the bar even higher. Speaking to, Yap told us how he did it.

Strength runs in the family

Yap isn’t the only strongman in his family. His head coach happens to be his older brother Marcus Yap, a champion powerlifter himself. The elder Yap runs his own stable, CoachByMarc, and it is him Yap credits for his recent victories.

“(He) has been so meticulous in my programming, and eyeing on my technique. Due to conflicting schedules, we are unable to train together. In powerlifting, videos and being in person to watch technique is pretty different.

And to assist me in my training, the assistant head coach Qing Quan has been taking care of me throughout my training and even here in India.”

His achievement is even more impressive considering the fact that he and his brothers were training for the competition while also grieving the loss of one of their biggest fans.

The real hero Yap was competing for, he told us, was his 70-year-old grandmother, who sadly succumbed to pneumonia in early October and so was not able to watch him compete in India.

“My grandmother supported us whenever we went for local competitions, she would always be there to spectate and cheer us whenever we entered the platform.

She would always come down to attend local competitions, and watch the live stream for international ones with my mom and cheer us on. She also said that it is very thrilling to watch us compete.”

It was while she was in intensive care that Yap promised her he would retain the gold medal in her honour.

“She was always healthy and her condition was a huge shock to all of us. I made her that promise as whenever we mention about international competitions, it would put a smile on her face.

She was really proud of all our achievements and she would brag and share it amongst her friends.”

Dropping 5kg in four months — 2 in one day

Painful though the loss had to be, Yap had other problems to grapple with. He found himself, four months ahead of the competition, 5kg above his weight category limit of 66kg.

“We tried everything — dropping carbs, playing with the metabolism with high low carb days, but nothing worked. So, we went to the extreme and got a blood test done to see if it is my thyroid hormones but results turned negative.

My dietician had no clue what was going on either. The only logical explanation my doctor could give me was puberty, that I have grown. I was on 1.3k calories for the past 2 months, with 1 hour of cardio every single day.”

Yap did manage to lose 3kg through a technique called water-loading. This works by drinking lots of water so the body excretes fluid more easily. Then by cutting back the water intake, but still losing fluids, you can lose weight rapidly.

But that wasn’t enough. Yap eventually found himself in India, still two kilograms above 66kg, and in desperation, he decided he would sweat out whatever fluids he could in the sauna — a common weight-loss tactic, but he ended up nearly fainting twice.

“I was already pretty dry going into the sauna which made the process a lot more gruelling for me… In the sauna, I almost fainted twice. Each time, I told my younger brother who was watching over me that my chest was really tight and I felt breathless. I lay on the floor for 5 minutes after I exited the sauna, motionless.”

Yap said that his younger brother, Matthias, told him not to do it if he didn’t feel up to it. But he plucked up his courage and went back in.

This made him late for the weigh-ins, which started at 4pm, two hours before the first lift at 6pm.

Somehow, he made the cut at 5pm. But he had less than an hour to re-fuel and get ready, bearing in mind too that his previous experience with last-minute weight-cutting did not end well.

“In June, I cut 3kg and did not manage to fuel up despite having two hours till my first lift. (I) had major cramps and wasn’t able to even stand up.

This time thinking that my weight cut is (twice) the one in June and less than 2 hours till first lift, I panicked and thought that my whole body would cramp up and it would be more painful than what happened in Belarus.”

Fortunately for Yap, he only suffered minor cramps. He tells us he plans to move up a weight class to under-74kg, though, so he will need to gain more weight instead.

One deadlift, three records

Yap had made the cut, and managed to prepare for his first lift without cramping up too badly.

And the man to beat was his arch rival — Kazakhstan’s Dmitry Chebanov.

In June, Chebanov had crushed Yap’s record in the total weight lifted for the deadlift, squat and benchpress, defeating him by a whopping 32.5kg.

So there was a heck of a lot stacked up against his final lift.

“My last attempt for (the) deadlift was for the Asian record in the deadlift, the Total world record, and most importantly for the Gold in the overall to beat the Khazak.”

And he did it. Lifting 237.5 kg, he set the world record for the deadlift.

This followed his 215.5kg lift in the squat, which was another world record — again, beating his own previous world record set in June.

Along with the 135kg benchpress, it added up to a total lift of 588kg, yet another world record. With that, Yap had broken three world records in a single competition.

For the Under-66kg sub-junior division (14 to 18-year-old), Yap has cemented himself as the strongest man in the world. But he is modest about his achievement.

“Honestly, it just shows that you reap what you sow. Time, effort, and every single sacrifice will eventually pay off. I do not feel very different from others, just that I am confident that if I put effort into doing something, I can achieve something.”

Still no government support for powerlifting

What makes Yap’s achievements even more amazing is that powerlifting does not have a recognised national sports association in Singapore, so our competitive powerlifters are not funded.

Previously, we shared with you how Yap worked in a Korean eatery just to save up the money he needed to fly there and compete.

This time, Yap’s funding worries were eased with the help of backers, including the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation.

“(It’s easier), from the Chiam See Tong Sports Foundation, my equipments and trainings were paid off! I had to save up for this trip through my pocket money and fortunately, I had a private sponsor reach out to me for my flights.”

Two more years of school, then NS

So what’s next for Yap? He currently is in his first year at Republic Polytechnic’s School of Technology and the Arts, and was granted five days’ Leave of Absence in order to compete.

But National Service looms after that, and he isn’t sure yet where he’ll be sent or how it will disrupt his training schedule

“I will treasure my time in Polytechnic to train as hard as I can. Being in NS means I’ll not be able to have a normal training schedule and some say that it is a waste but everyone goes through it! I honestly do not mind any vocation but I have a disc injury so I am not sure where they will put me.”

But he has a word of advice for other aspiring athletes out there.

“I would say keep your head down and keep on fighting. When you compete and take a look around you, you will realise that hard work definitely pays off.”

For now at least, he knows that he’s kept his promise to his grandmother.

Top image courtesy of Matthew Yap.

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