The spotlights at the Jakabaring Sport City’s Wall Climbing Centre trained on Amar Hassan.
The 19-year-old Singaporean stood next to Iran’s Reza Alipour, the speed-climbing world record holder (5.43 seconds), ready to compete against sport climbing’s superstar in the men’s round of 16 at the Asian Games yesterday.
Despite Amar’s confidence, he was unable to get the better of the Iranian and was knocked out of the competition after he clocked 8.50 to Reza’s 6.42.
Compatriot Emmanuel Ryan Paul was next and was even leading against Reza’s brother Mehdi, but stumbled and he too was eliminated.
Reza eventually won gold, ahead of China’s Zhong Qixin, with Indonesia’s Aspar taking bronze in sport climbing’s debut at the Asiad and the packed arena suggests its inclusion has been a popular choice.
Singaporean Nadhrah Yusri also fell out at the same stage in the women’s speed final, but she was delighted to receive congratulatory text messages from her family afterwards.
They were watching the event on their TV screens in Singapore, the first time they had seen her compete since she picked up the sport eight years ago.
“I was super excited, this is my first major Games, and now my family know that what I do is not about climbing high, but climbing fast,” said the 22-year-old.
Indonesia’s Aries Susanti Rahayu struck gold ahead of compatriot Puji Lestari, with China’s He Cuilian taking bronze.
In a sport where stumbles and false starts – and the disqualification that follows – are common, the margins of error are small, and any one can win the scramble up a fixed 15m route.
The sport will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and Amar is excited at the prospect of competing in 2020. “I definitely thought I had a chance against Reza, and it’s exciting to have a chance to be an Olympian. But I know that I have to train very hard, and improve a lot,” he said.
It is a similar optimism held by Paul, who goes by his initials, ERP.
“I know I messed up. I could have won, and my personal best is 5.9sec – I think I could have taken Reza too,” said the 19-year-old. “But we’re all still quite young, we have a long way to go – maybe to the Olympics.”