Stories of Ambitions
We caught up with Yau Ka-chun to see how his competition season had been going and whether the news of the postponed Olympics has impacted him.
How did you find the experience in Japan, and what techniques or tips did you take back with you?
I came away from the camp with a much clearer mind and more focused approach. The time I spent with Ian the coach and the other climbers taught me a lot about the most efficient ways to climb, and how to get the most out of every movement.
It gave me a new perspective on the sport. And the biggest thing I took from it was how to control and manage the mental aspects of climbing, learning how to stay focused on what I’m doing and not being distracted by external factors. This concentration and focus has really helped my training and competition performance.
I’ve been able to transfer this all into my own training too, reading routes before I set off and studying every movement I make much closer to be as efficient as possible.
Competition in Hong Kong is tough. How has this translated into your performance in training?
Back to the training in Hong Kong, a large proportion of my time is spent on how to control my speed. Again, I’ve learnt that mentality is the key to the speed, so this is my focus in training. This has helped me achieve significant improvements in the speed discipline. Before the Olympics announced the format, I actually never really trained specifically for speed, but after setting my goal as the Olympics, I integrated speed training to my routine. The mental edge I developed in the camp has helped me improve my movements and cut times on the wall. It’s helped me pushed through my previous personal best, I‘ve been able to achieve 7.07sec in training and 7.19sec in competition.
So you were able to transfer these improvements into a season of competing?
I had some strong results in the China Climbing League tournaments. I was very happy with my performance and I collected 5 awards in total including one Gold and one Bronze. But when I went to the Climbing World Cups in Moscow, Japan, China and Slovenia, I couldn’t achieve the same success. I didn’t perform well, I got too caught up in the process and pressure of the competition. This showed me there was still room for improvement. I still needed to find focus on my own performance to really make an impact on the international stage.
How has your approach to competition changed as a result?
The key for me is to stay focused on the climbing rather than the results. I need to find a balance between being relaxed and competitive, because while a strong will to win is necessary, being too competitive can affect my direction of focus. I have learned breathing exercises and how to prepare for competitions on the physiological side. The most important thing still is to be well prepared, this is where I’m always working and looking to improve.
The covid-19 situation has impacted every area of our lives and meant many climbing competitions have been postponed or cancelled, how has this impacted you?
It is difficult because it is something that we cannot control. Mentally I will just deal with it more positively and optimistically.
I’d had my sights set on Tokyo for this year and now I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get my shot, or even if I will be able to.
Given the disruption to my training I’m focusing more on fitness and strength training away from the wall, ensuring I’m ready when things do return to normal. The Asian Championships, which is a key moment for me in Olympic qualification, has been cancelled. This is very disappointing and frustrating, but obviously for the best for everybody. I believed that I would have a good chance to shine, especially in bouldering.
I tried to see the postponing of Tokyo as a positive, with it giving me more time to train, but the situation has changed now.
The Olympics has of course been postponed and the final qualification spots handed out, what was your reaction to this news?
This is difficult for me. I’d had my sights set on Tokyo for this year and now I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get my shot, or even if I will be able to. By 2024 I might struggle to compete with the younger athletes. My sights are still set on it and I’ll be ready to train as hard as I can, but it will be harder for me to reach that highest level.
How is the continued support of JLL helping you on your journey?
This sponsorship is very helpful to me. In terms of training, the coaching at the camp provided me with a lot of help, they taught me how to face the climbs with a positive attitude and this is how I improved my speed and other skills dramatically.
With the funding support, I was able to go to China, Japan and Taiwan for more professional, challenging and diverse bouldering training. I also purchased some professional climbing gear. Good climbing shoes are essential to improve performance and they are consumed very fast, it would be difficult to equip myself to compete at the top level without supporters like JLL.
Finally, given the changes and uncertainty around competition, what is your focus for the future?
For now the focus is on staying safe and healthy. Whilst I can’t carry out climbing training I can still ensure I’m ready to compete when the time comes, pushing myself with strength and cardio training. I can’t wait to get back onto the wall and I’d really like to climb back into the smart suit from the camp to see how my technique has changed and progressed. It taught me so much and helped me cut 0.5 seconds from my speed climbs, so this would really help me get back on track. My ambition to appear at an Olympic games might seem further away than ever, but I’ll never give up in the pursuit of it and I know if I give 100% nothing is out of reach.
See more of Ka Chun’s story of ambition in our short film here, and stay up to date with all of our climbers’ progress here as we follow their journey throughout the year.