SEA Games: Former national bowler Grace remains a Young fan

SEA Games: Former national bowler Grace remains a Young fan
GRACE THROUGH THE YEARS: Left, Grace Young at a dinner at the Istana for Team Singapore athletes in February; below right, with Adelene Wee after winning the bowling doubles gold at the 1993 SEA Games; right, in action at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The South-east Asia (SEA) Games has a special place in Grace Young's heart.

No surprise then that the former national bowling champion will be involved at the home Games on many fronts.

While some of her functions at the 28th SEA Games, starting today, are voluntary, one in particular was in response to the call of the nation.

The Games organising committee invited her to be one of the sporting legends to spread the Games fever at the SportsHub's National Stadium track during the opening ceremony.

And the charming lady in her early fifties welcomed the honour with glee and gusto.

She was even willing to spend hours at the rehearsals despite her hectic schedule - which mixes her roles as a mother, bowling official, league tennis player, social golfer, rock-climber, cyclist, skier, and, best of all, fund-raiser.

When The New Paper interrupted her from her duties at last Saturday's marathon opening ceremony rehearsal, Young said: "The ceremony is totally spectacular. You should come and watch it."

For someone who was handed the grandest honour - lighting the cauldron - when Singapore last staged the SEA Games in 1993, you cannot but agree with Young's assessment.

Then, Young was the final recipient of the torch, an important symbol of any Games.

After a 48-hour relay, the torch was handed to sailors Tan Wearn Haw, Ng Xuan Hui and Benedict Tan, before Young received it at the National Stadium.

She then ran the last 100 metres before sparking the cannon at one end of the stadium to set the Games flame alight in the cauldron at the opposite end of the imposing venue.

This time, the athletic three-time Sportswoman of the Year who won seven golds, two silvers and four bronzes at the SEA Games between 1987 and 1995, will be among eight sporting legends doing the pre-cauldron-lighting honours.

The other seven are C Kunalan (athletics), Joscelin Yeo (swimming), Ang Peng Siong (swimming), Glory Barnabas (athletics), Benedict Tan (sailing), Melanie Martens (hockey) and Sheik Alau'ddin (silat).

SPORTING CELEBRITY

The sport of bowling, which Young stumbled upon, has turned her from an ordinary Singaporean into a sporting celebrity.

It was in 1984 that a chance visit to a bowling alley saw her meet then national coach Victor Tham.

Tham invited Young to join the national team's training sessions after watching her carry out his instructions to a T at the alley.

Six months later, she became a Graded champion at the National Championships.

And just when Young thought that her bowling career would fly, things took a different turn.

Over the next few years, she struggled to compete against the more experienced bowlers - but her persistence and hard work slowly began to pay off.

It was an ascendancy that even surprised her, a gold medal in the five-woman team event and a bronze medal in the trios at the 1987 SEA Games providing a major boost to her career.

She continued to strike gold at the subsequent SEA Games until 1995, and interspersed those impressive performances with successes at the 1990 Asian FIQ and the 1991 World FIQ.

In 1994 she finished third at the World Cup, then bagged bronzes at the 1994 and 1998 Asian Games.

The latter Games proved to be her swansong as injuries plagued her, and she said that only the inclusion of bowling at the Olympic Games would tempt her out of retirement.

EXHIBITION SPORT

As bowling was an exhibition sport at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, there was a glimmer of hope for that possibility.

But it did not happen and the kegler called time on a bowling career that put her in the forefront of Singaporean sporting milestones.

Young felt that she should give back to the game that made her a sporting queen, but after three years of coaching, she found that it was not her cup of tea.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for she ventured into many other sports, such as tennis, golf and rock-climbing - and earned many accolades.

While she still makes heads turn as a league tennis player, it was her unexpected indulgence in cycling that brought out the spirit of giving that has been a big part of her striking personality.

Inspired by a good friend, she took up the sport despite not even owning a bicycle. And within two months, she competed in The Tour of Hope - an eight-day ride in Thailand that raised almost $20,000 for charity in 2010.

After her torch-bearing duties at the opening ceremony of the SEA Games today, the co-opted Singapore Bowling Federation council member will officiate at the bowling tournament as an international technical officer.

But, more importantly, she said: "I will take my son Kenneth, 10, to as many events as possible - namely basketball, tennis, football and swimming - as this will be a journey of learning for him and me.

"And if my husband Roy gets some time-off from work, he will join us too at this homecoming Jubilee Games."

Because for Grace, home is where the heart is.


This article was first published on June 05, 2015.
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