04 May 2018
By Nicolette Mok
TeamSG Muay Thai Fighters Chai Kai Quan and Cheryl Gwa emphasise the hard work, exposure, and spirit needed to excel in their sport.
When speaking to elite athletes such as TeamSG Muay Thai fighters Chai Kai Quan and Cheryl Gwa, it is inevitable that one wonders just how they get to such a level. What are the traits, training, and experiences necessary to excel as they do?
Strong, powerful, and committed, both are currently working towards the World Muaythai Championships 2018 in Mexico.
L to R: Chai Kai Quan and Cheryl Gwa
Cheryl, who trains full time, will be a returning World Championships contender. She has won medals at the Asian Beach Games and Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. Kai Quan, an experienced athlete, has fought at prestigious venues such as the old Lumpinee Stadium and the Rajadamnern Stadium. Although he has to juggle full-time training and caring for his parents, who are in ill health, he has not let up on fulfilling his sporting ambitions.
In preparation for the upcoming competition, the national team, led by team manager Robert Yap, has been undergoing centralised training at the Chowraiooi Gym, under the guidance of multiple world champion Toby Smith and veteran trainer and promoter Nugget Mcnaught.
Having worked extensively with Toby and Nugget, who hail from Australia, Kai Quan related the importance of putting in hard work during training.
L to R: Nugget Mcnaught, Kai Quan and Toby Smith
“Nugget and Toby give their 100%, and we reciprocate by giving 150% for them in training. Toby’s 20kg heavier than me and he really hits me hard. This way, I’m able to better prepare myself for another opponent in my own weight category. We push each other to get better each day,” he said.
A typical session for Kai Quan involves 20 to 25 minutes of non-stop skipping, and about three or four rounds of shadow boxing. Pad work, clinching, boxing, and sparring follows, before wrapping things up with a six- or seven-kilometre run. This routine, remarkably, is done in addition to a 10-kilometre run in the mornings.
Cheryl echoed Kai Quan’s sentiments on the sheer grit needed to excel: “We all know that if you don’t give your all during training, you’re going to suffer in the ring. We’ve all learnt from experience, with each fight. If we don’t train enough, we’ll find that we get tired in the ring; we’re not strong enough.”
Of course, exposure to competition remained an important factor, and while Cheryl has been focusing more on her preparations in Singapore, she was also recently in Thailand for a few friendlies, pitting her skills against local fighters.
She expressed: “It’s about experience too. The more you fight, the more comfortable you are with getting hit, and you’ll know yourself better in the ring. You don’t get as nervous, and you’re more prepared for the big competitions!”
With such intense and disciplined lifestyles, it is no wonder that Kai Quan and Cheryl both get stronger by the day – not just physically, but also mentally. This resolve, in turn, spurs them on towards greater heights.
As Cheryl revealed, training has made her “more persistent”. Kai Quan, too, added: “Without Muay Thai, I don’t know if I could have taken on the life challenges thrown at me.”
Indeed, making it to the world stage is all about determination, according to Nugget: “If you’ve got no heart and spirit, you can’t rise to the top. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you don’t have the heart that matches them, you’re not going to win the big fights.”
Both Cheryl and Kai Quan appear to have the necessary resilience in spades. Unfazed by the strong competition standing before them at the upcoming competition, they are all set to give their opponents a good fight.
“It may be daunting, but I’m just going to do it. And if I fail this, I’m going for the next, and the next, and the next!” Kai Quan asserted.
Stand with Kai Quan and Cheryl as they battle it out at the World Muaythai Championships 2018 (10-19 May), and follow our Team Singapore Facebook page for more updates.