Bowling: Joey wins World Open

Barely a month ago, 17-year-old bowler Joey Yeo could only watch from the sidelines as her national team-mates clinched four gold medals on home soil to much fanfare at the SEA Games.

She was bitterly disappointed at missing out on selection for the Games and vowed to work on her game even harder than before.

Her determination and effort were vindicated yesterday when she edged out German Birgit Poppler to win the women's title at the Bowling World Open.

The Singaporean triumphed 207-204 in the championship decider at the Makuhari-Messe exhibition hall just outside of Tokyo.

"Missing out on taking part in the SEA Games spurred me to work on my game even more during those two weeks," said Joey, who plans to donate part of her 10 million yen (S$110,052) prize purse to charity.

"It was motivation for me to push myself harder to improve and I'm glad it paid off."

National coach Remy Ong praised his young charge's stellar showing, saying: "Joey remained focused on her routine, and with all the physical training and tactical inputs we have added to her game, her hard work has paid off."

The inaugural Bowling World Open, the 13th leg of the 2015 World Bowling Tour (WBT), is the richest event on the 2015 WBT schedule, with a total prize fund of 48 million yen on offer.

A collaboration between World Bowling, the Japan Bowling Congress and the National Bowling Federation of Japan, the tournament featuring bowlers from 55 countries aims to promote the sport's bid for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In the final, Joey initially fell behind in the third and fourth frames but then reeled off five successive strikes that saw her seize the lead, which she never relinquished.

The right-handed hook bowler admitted: " I won't deny it (trailing to Poppler) wasn't playing on my mind, but I just tried to keep focused on my game and go back to my basics."

The circumstances under which Joey bowled made her victory all the more impressive, as unlike the practice rounds, coaches were not permitted to give their athletes advice from the sidelines.

"As I was out there bowling alone, for every shot I made, there was no one else to validate my choices. So I tried to take the game shot by shot, it wasn't really about counting the scores," the Raffles Institution student explained.

"The main focus was on judging what adjustments were needed for the next shot and putting the skills I had been taught in training to good use."

She was grateful for the support from her team-mates, such as recent SEA Games gold medallists Jazreel Tan and Bernice Lim, saying: "Seeing their smiles and support for me just made my day, it helped me to relax and enjoy my game."

The teenager had previously won a trios gold at the Asian Bowling Championships in January and was part of the Republic's winning team at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Ong, 36, a former world champion, believes Joey's victory is an indicator of the strength of Singapore bowling's pipeline of talent.

"Joey's win is a good stepping stone for bowling to move forward in Singapore," he said. "It shows that our young bowlers are capable of stepping up to replace our older bowlers. It is a good transition for our sport."

Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua concurred, saying: "Great credit to Joey. She had to do it all on her own and performed brilliantly, we are so immensely proud of her. This win reaffirms our belief in our development programme."

This article was first published on July 13, 2015.
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