Singapore bowling's raw diamond

Singapore bowling's raw diamond
Inaugural women's champion of the Bowling World Open, Joey Yeo, 17, during training. Those who know the Raffles Institution student are not surprised by her success.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

An 11-year old walks up to a television showing New Hui Fen bowling at the 2009 Asian Youth Games, jabs at the screen with her finger before declaring, in front of her family: " I want to be like her one day."

Six years on, that little girl has made good on her vow after she emerged as the inaugural women's champion at the Bowling World Open in Japan last Sunday, in which she competed alongside New, who is now her team-mate.

Now 17, Joey Yeo found herself the holder of a cheque for 10 million yen (S$110,300) after winning her first world tour title in the biggest prize-money tournament (48 million yen) in the sport's history .

First introduced to the sport when she tagged along for her brothers' bowling lessons at three, she was often denied permission to start due to her small frame.

But it all changed when she turned eight and was finally allowed to take up bowling lessons.

It was love at first try as she muses: "I have no idea what in particular attracted me to bowling. But I guess it's just like a hand that fits a glove perfectly."

That love has continued to grow, along with the list of accolades.

She started out playing in weekly family leagues but came to national prominence in 2013, when she finished with one all-events gold, one team silver, and two bronzes in the doubles and masters at the Asian Youth Games.

A year later, she earned a team gold in the Asian Games, and a trios gold and team silver at this year's Asian Bowling Championships.

In a bid to progress further, Joey moved from a private student to Strike Academy, before entering the national development squad in 2011. She was promoted to the national team in 2013.

Those who know the Raffles Institution student are not surprised at her success.

Kristin Quah, 19, former national team-mate and friend of nine years, said: "She's one of the most hard-working bowlers around. Despite our tight training schedule of training sessions four to five times a week, she would add on another two days of gym herself.

"She really puts in a lot of effort."

But it was not smooth sailing all the way. Despite taking two months off school to prepare for the SEA Games, Joey failed to make the cut for the squad.

Despite the bad news, she was determined to not let it derail her.

"I did not harp too much on it. I just told myself there will be a lot more opportunities," she said.

The opportunities ensued and she seized them, making her the next rising star to look out for on the lanes.

National head coach Remy Ong said: "Joey is a hard-to-come-by gem.

"This is a big stepping stone for her and with her hard work, I believe she will surely make it even bigger in time to come, and not be just a one-hit wonder."

Despite the high praise, Joey is keeping her feet firmly planted on the ground.

"I will still continue to represent Singapore and continue training as per normal. I will not let this win change anything," she said.

This article was first published on July 19, 2015.
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