HE QUIT the sport, explaining that bowling does not offer satisfactory remuneration. But this week he made a surprise comeback, inspired by something that has no financial ties whatsoever - passion.
Unannounced, Lee Yu-wen, the 2002 Asian Games trios gold medallist, made a surprise return to bowling on Tuesday, four years after his retirement.
And he has picked a suitable occasion to stage his comeback as he bowled competitively once more at the 47th Singapore International Open at Orchid Country Club.
He holds the distinction of being the last Singaporean to win the men's Open Division in the 2006 edition of the Singapore Bowling Federation's (SBF) flagship event.
The 33-year-old told The Straits Times: "I have bowled competitively for 15 years, and now I am participating out of my passion for the sport.
"I have missed the atmosphere and the adrenaline rush of bowling competitively - that is something that money cannot buy."
Lee reveals that he only resumed bowling in January after one of his clients encouraged him to bowl in a club league, and that he was "a little frightened" to return to the lanes.
The southpaw added: "But all the bits and pieces of bowling came back to me as I bowled, and I enjoy competing. So I want to see how I fare and also give the national bowlers a good fight."
A standout bowler of his generation along with Remy Ong, Lee understandably displayed signs of rustiness, finishing 11th out of 14 ranked participants on the first day and scoring only an average of 204.7, behind pace-setter Justin Lim who averaged 232 pinfalls.
Despite expressing satisfaction with his comeback performance so far, Lee nevertheless admitted that his scores could be better. His participation, however, was a welcome sight for SBF president Jessie Phua.
She said: "Yu-wen was, is and we hope, will continue to be a valuable asset for bowling here."
Although he has announced his retirement, Lee noted that he would jump at the chance to represent Singapore again if there is a chance.
He is also looking to contribute to the bowling community through his current capacity as a personal trainer by forming a partnership between his gym, new:yu, and the SBF in the future.
He said: "As a former bowler, I know exactly what muscle groups bowlers need to work on.
"I can also help to develop their mental strength based on my experience in both bowling and the fitness industry."
Bowling supremo Phua is receptive to the idea, saying: "SBF's doors are always open to all, whether in competitions, partnerships or collaborations for our sport to continue to grow and improve."
At the moment, Lee is still focused on his comeback.
"I was very nervous initially, but I aim to win. That is my purpose when competing."
This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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