In a shock to Singapore bowling, former world champion Remy Ong has stepped down as head coach of the national team.
The 36-year-old left the post with immediate effect on Saturday - just a month before the World Tenpin Bowling Championships begins in Abu Dhabi.
However, he had the blessings of Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua, who allowed him to leave to pursue a business venture.
In another surprise, Ong told The Straits Times that - after a nearly three-year absence - he will return as a professional bowler, starting with the Qatar Open at the end of this month.
The former Asia No. 1 was a no-nonsense coach, known for dishing out 15-minute wall-sits if national players failed to follow instructions during training.
However, Ong denied that his departure had anything to do with talk of players' unhappiness over his methods.
He said: "My training style may not have pleased everybody but the players know I gave my best to help them get better. Some of them have sent me messages asking why I left and to re-consider. The men's team gave me a farewell dinner too so I left on good terms."
Admitting his "hands are itching to bowl again", Ong revealed that "an exciting business opportunity" also came along.
Together with a friend, he has founded Sponzer Group, a digital marketing firm aiming to build the profile of athletes across the region.
"It was entirely my decision to quit to start my own company," said the 2003 and 2007 Sportsman of the Year. "There are risks involved but I felt the time had come to do it. It's always been a passion of mine to help athletes away from the sporting arena."
Phua said she had "no anxiety" over Ong's departure, as a system is in place where five to six other national coaches, such as Helmi Chew and Clara Lau, can fill the gap.
She added: "We are sad to lose Remy but he has decided to embark on a different career. He has done well to groom current and future national bowlers, which the other coaches will continue to do."
Jazreel Tan, who won one gold, two silvers and one bronze at last year's Asian Games, noted: "Remy can be sarcastic and hard at times as a coach but you knew he always wanted the best for us.
"I'm a bit surprised by the timing of his departure but we have faced unexpected situations before and there's a very good coaching staff to help us."
Ong took on the national post full-time in January 2013, after a sparkling 18-year bowling career.
Among the southpaw's greatest achievements: bagging a hat-trick of gold medals at the 2002 Asian Games (singles, trios and masters) as well as becoming the first Singaporean to strike gold at the Men's World Championships in 2006.
As a coach, the national women's sextet of Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan, Shayna Ng, Jazreel Tan, New Hui Fen and Bernice Lim shone under his guidance.
They clinched the team gold at last year's Asiad, where they pipped the world-class South Koreans on their home soil, as well as a silver at this year's Asian Tenpin Bowling Championships.
While the men's team have largely struggled to fill Ong's big boots, brothers Howard and Keith Saw still bagged a doubles gold at the recent SEA Games in Singapore.
A man who lives and breathes bowling, Ong has also offered to serve as adviser to Singapore's para bowlers ahead of next month's ASEAN Para Games here.
He remains open to representing the national team again one day - though it is not an immediate goal.
He said: "I want to build myself back up first and become the Remy Ong that people remember.
"If my services are required, I will be there to support my country."
He added: "Whether a fellow player needs advice or the national coach wants me in his team, I'm just a phone call away."
This article was first published on November 4, 2015.
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