16-year-old breaks three world records in powerlifting
Powerlifter Charles Tan sets sights on world stage after shining at Malaysian meet
Two years ago, he was overweight and struggling to find a sport he was interested in.
Two weeks ago, Charles Tan Yong Wen, now 16, broke three world records at the Malaysia Powerlifting Alliance Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
The Manjusri Secondary School student said of his victory: "All my hard work finally paid off. I don't think it is very impressive, but it is enough for now. I want to achieve more."
Charles rewrote the records in the squat and deadlift categories, lifting 222.5kg and 215.5kg respectively, as well as the combined total lift in his age and weight class with 540.5kg.
In November 2015, the teenager tipped the scales at more than 120kg and was considered obese for his height. He was 1.71m then, he is now 1.78m.
He was frustrated at his inability to lose weight while taking part in sports such as basketball and swimming.
A chance encounter with Mr Shawn Heng, 34, at GymmBoxx in Bedok Point changed all that.
Charles had noticed Mr Heng performing a deadlift, and the simplicity of the exercise appealed to him. He asked Mr Heng to take him under his wing. Mr Heng told The New Paper: "Charles came up to me and said he wanted to be a world record-holder one day. At the time, I couldn't get over how this 14-year-old kid could have such lofty dreams."
But Mr Heng eventually agreed to coach him.
"I didn't set out with a mindset to prove the doubters wrong, but to prove Charles right. It was for Charles to prove to himself that he was hungry enough," he added.
Charles did just that by losing more than 10kg after taking up powerlifting.
Now, he has exceeded his own expectations - breaking not one, but three records - in his first major international competition.
"I took a gamble with the deadlift (his personal best had been 207kg). But my mentality has always been to try for something harder than what I had already achieved," said Charles.
His father, Mr David Tan, 63, a car salesman, said: "I encouraged him to train less regularly at the start of the year to focus on studies, but he insisted he could manage. He is dedicated to the sport."
Charles' victory is a personal triumph for Mr Heng, whose sporting ambitions were ended by an accident in 2014.
Mr Heng, who cried tears of joy at Charles' win, said: "I see a bit of myself in Charles. His drive and desire to win remind me of what I couldn't accomplish as an athlete."
Having achieved his original goals, Charles has his sights on competing on the global stage.
But for now, he plans to ease off on his training to focus on the O-level examinations this year.
"It is time for the next challenge - the O levels," he said.