Women set to pin down medals

Women set to pin down medals
There are high hopes for the women’s bowling team of (front row, from left) Shayna Ng, Jazreel Tan, (back row, from left) Daphne Tan, Bernice Lim, New Hui Fen and Cherie Tan.

In A sport where performances may fluctuate simply due to different lane conditions, the Singapore women's bowling team have demonstrated an impressive knack for consistency.

Each of the sextet - Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan, Shayna Ng, Jazreel Tan, New Hui Fen and Bernice Lim - has had her shining moments, winning major individual trophies around the world. But it is as a group that they have scaled remarkable heights.

These women won team golds at the 2011 Indonesia SEA Games and last year's Incheon Asian Games, where they pipped a world-class South Korea team on their home soil, as well as a silver at this year's Asian Tenpin Bowling Championships.

"We have a pool of girls who are equally strong. So together, we're especially strong," explained Cherie, 27, the 2011 SEA Games women's singles and Masters champion.

Ng - a former world champion - echoed her team-mate's sentiments, saying: "We are very different individually, but over the years, we learnt to adapt to one another.

"We understand one another, not just personally, but also on the lanes."

The expectation is now that the women's team will dominate when the Singapore SEA Games kick off next month. The best-case scenario would be to match their largest single-Games haul - four women's golds in the 1975 edition.

Winning the team gold will certainly be a major highlight, a culmination of a long journey since this golden generation of girls were pulled together after their predecessors won only a bronze medal at the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand.

However, success did not arrive immediately.

Former national coach William Woo, who mentored the team for about six years, traced their journey back to Las Vegas in 2009. Then, they snared a team bronze at the World Women's Championships which signalled their transition into a world-class team.

"That was the start," he recalled. "The girls saw their efforts come to fruition and realised they were not that far away (from global success). Then they started to believe in themselves." Belief did not eliminate struggle and frustration. But it illuminated their paths towards eventual success.

And now, national coach Remy Ong hopes the national men's team can begin to find their way to success, starting at this Games.

With an average age of 21, the male bowlers are younger and less experienced than their female counterparts, but most have been successful on the junior circuit.

Making the leap to senior success will not be easy, said Ong, a world-class bowler in his heyday when he won three Asian Games golds in 2002.

The 36-year-old explained: "At the Asian or SEA Games level, the players that they are competing with are the same players whom I competed with.

"How do you expect them to outshine their competitors like that? It doesn't just happen overnight. So I'm already really proud of their progress."

What is evident is the easy and distinct camaraderie among all six men's bowlers, which is borne of extensive schooling and training together.

"Among the six of us, we're willing to talk about one another's weaknesses and improve together," said Keith Saw, 21, the only non-debutant among the men.

The best overall haul by Singapore bowlers in a single SEA Games was back in 1983, with eight golds won on home soil.

While Ong is confident of his charges winning medals, he is also realistic about the marginal and uncertain nature of his sport.

"We will definitely, 100 per cent, win medals," he said. "But I can't control the colours. Why? Because I've been through it before and I know. The last SEA Games I bowled at, I won two gold medals - both by one pin. So anything can happen.

"If everything clicks at the right moment, at the right time, we'll win the gold medals that we're all looking for."

liminc@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 30, 2015.
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