Paying little heed to reputation or an intimidating home crowd, Malaysia's women bowlers refused to be cowed as they reclaimed the SEA Games team title yesterday.
The quintet of Shalin Zulkifli, Esther Cheah, Sin Li Jane, Natasha Roslan and Syaidatul Afifah held off a spirited - though ultimately futile - fightback from the Republic's much-vaunted women's team to take the gold.
They combined to score 6,067 pinfalls, a mere 55 ahead of the home favourites Jazreel Tan, New Hui Fen, Shayna Ng and sisters Cherie and Daphne Tan after a tense battle that lasted almost nine hours. The Philippines were third with 5,776.
Malaysia had won this event in 2005 and 2007 but lost the crown to Singapore in 2011.
The Republic, who had won the 2014 Asian Games team gold, had been heavily tipped to dominate on home soil.
They triumphed in the singles and trios but faltered in the doubles. Last night, they had no answer to Malaysia's firepower at the Orchid Country Club.
Led by veteran Shalin, in her last Games outing before retiring, Malaysia built a 90-pin lead going into the deciding sixth game.
The defending champions managed to cut the deficit - while raising the decibel levels of some 200 supporters - but could not maintain the momentum.
All five Singaporeans declined to be interviewed but the tears and sobs from the likes of New and Daphne spoke volumes of the pain inflicted by this defeat.
Said national coach Remy Ong: "We had some bad breaks but the way we fought back showed a never-give-up spirit.
"I'm very proud of my players. They did really well but Malaysia were just better today."
The Malaysians rose to the occasion, with Games debutantes Syaidatul and Natasha leading the way with high scores of 223 and 211 in the final game.
Said multiple Asian Games medallist Sin: "It was a tough environment to bowl in but the girls stepped up and did well.
"The future of Malaysian bowling looks very bright."
There was more good news as their male counterparts ran away with the team gold with 6,238 pinfalls, ahead of Indonesia (6,066) and Thailand (5,852).
Singapore's six women and two men (Keith Saw and Javier Tan) have qualified for the masters and will battle for the final two golds of the competition.
This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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