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Now-sophomore Kampton Kam competes in the high jump at the 2023 Penn Relays on Apr. 29. Credit: Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford

While at Penn most students were stressing over their next midterm exams, track and field sophomore high jumper Kampton Kam was facing a different kind of stress on the other side of the globe.

Kam, who hails from Singapore, set his country's indoor national record in the high jump at 2.06 meters in his first ever collegiate competition last winter, and then extended it to 2.08m at the Wesley A. Brown Invitational. But since then, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Kam. Early on in the college season, Kam sustained a lingering injury that would end up derailing most competitions his freshman year. Overall, the campaign was one to forget for Kam, who has had his eyes set on the Singaporean national high jump record of 2.22m set by Wong Yew Tong in 1995 for quite some time. 

Using the summer to recover and train, Kam’s next opportunity to compete came early in the fall at the Asian Games. The Asian Games, which take place every four years, were held in Hangzhou, China this year from Sept. 23 until Oct. 8. Representing his native Singapore, Kam came out strong in the qualifying rounds, posting a season's best 2.15m, which was more than enough to punch his ticket to the finals. 

Unfortunately for Kam, 2.15m would prove to be his limit in this competition. After being unable to push past that height, ultimately placed seventh, with Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim taking gold as the only jumper to clear 2.19m. Despite not reaching the podium, Kam walked away from the experience with more positives than negatives. 

“My favourite part of the games is definitely jumping in the finals with my high jump heroes Mutaz Barshim and Woo Sanghyeok, in a stadium filled with 80k spectators,” Kam reflected. “It’s one of the largest if not the largest crowd I’ve jumped in and that atmosphere is crazy. I even got a signed windbreaker by Mutaz after the victory ceremony.”

While it would have been nice to medal, Kam is more than satisfied knowing that he is on track to getting back to where he was pre-injury.

“I’m relieved and feel blessed to have the opportunity to be here,” Kam said. “To qualify for the finals is just a bonus for me. It’s been a very tough year for me [with] a lot of injuries … so I can’t complain about ending the season with a season’s best.”

Now, Kam will be looking to rejoining his teammates with Penn track and field who have been studying for midterms while he has been competing. For someone who takes competing so seriously, it can often his ability to simultaneously succeed in the classroom. After missing nearly two weeks of school, Kam will be coming back to Penn with a number of exams to make up. Alas, the grind never stops — even for internationally competing athletes. 

While Kam gets back to studying, there is more than enough to be excited for as the next track and field season approaches. Clearing 2.15m on such a high-pressure stage sets the stage for what Kam hopes will be a much better sophomore season. The confidence booster was one that was much needed and bodes well for Kam’s record-setting ambitions.