Maibam Chingkheinganba scales the walls at the IMF complex easily. His hand movements are swift and his jumps rapid, as he scales the 15-metre wall in a time nearing eight seconds. He also has a national record to his name.

At the All India Sports Climbing competition held at the JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur in May earlier this year, the 15-year-old Manipuri scaled a 15-metre high-wall to break the men’s speed climbing record. Maibam clocked 7.10 seconds in his ascent, breaking the earlier mark of 7.59 seconds held by Bharath Pereira, also heading to the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

(Also read: Bharath Pereira, the 18-year-old from Bengaluru is raring to go for the Asian Games.)

Chingkheinganba hails from Imphal, Manipur’s capital city, and it was at the Minuthong Complex next to the Khuman Lampak Stadium, home to I-League side Neroca FC, that the climber picked up the sport. “There is one wall in the entire city and I first scaled it in 2012. I was hooked onto climbing then and there.”

With sport climbing making its debut at the Asian Games and at the Olympics in 2020, Maibam is one of the brightest prospects according to the International Mountaineering Federation coach Amit Sharma.

“His small and light structure make it easy for him to ascent. His arms are sinewy and allow for more blood flow, thus allowing him to make quick bursts,” says Sharma who will be accompanying the contingent to Indonesia.

Training under the Manipur Sports Council in Imphal, Maibam broke onto the scene when he won the junior nationals in 2014, leading to a spot at the Asian Youth Championships in 2015. Gold medals were earned at both the 2015 and 2017 games in the Youth ‘C’ categories as Maibam climbed up the ranks.

Image courtesy: Maibam Chingkheinganba
Image courtesy: Maibam Chingkheinganba

Now training at the IMF complex in New Delhi ahead of the games, the class XI student at New Light School, Canchipur, is aware that senior competitions will be different from the junior ones he’s used to experiencing.

“No, I don’t think there’s much pressure. Seniors will be tougher but some of the climbers competing there will be among those I have bested before at the Asian youth championships,” says Maibam.

Among the best across categories, Maibam will also be one among the two athletes sponsored by the International Sport-Climbing Federation to participate at the World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.

Like many in the state, Maibam also played football and represented his school in the Subroto Cup, making it all the way till the semi-finals. For now though, climbing remains the sole priority and the Asian Games a ‘huge opportunity’.