Men's bowlers end 22-year wait for team gold
Male bowlers deliver unexpected gold medal in team of five event
It was been 12 years since the quintet of Remy Ong, Lee Yu-Wen, Sam Goh, Jason Yeong Nathan and Terence Tan medalled in a SEA Games men's team of five bowling event in the Philippines.
You have to go back another decade for the last gold the Republic won in the same event - via Ricky Ng, Tommy Ong, Jack Wong, Sam Goh and Lim Choon Heng in Thailand in 1995.
With four debutants among their six representatives and an average age of just 20, few expected much from Singapore's male bowlers at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.
After all, they did not medal in the men's singles, doubles and trios events before yesterday.
But Basil Ng, Cheah Ray Han, Darren Ong, Keith Saw and Muhammad Jaris Goh pulled off one of the biggest upsets at these Games when they struck gold at the Sunway Mega Lanes last night with a six-game total of 6,399 pinfalls.
Indonesia (6,280) and Thailand (6,278) completed the podium spots while hosts and favourites Malaysia surprisingly finished only fourth with 6,239 pinfalls.
And it wasn't a lucky victory.
Singapore led from start to finish, finishing with a tally way ahead of Malaysia's winning total of 6,067 pinfalls two years ago.
Saw, who won the men's doubles with his brother Howard in 2015, said: "We trusted each other. If anyone threw a bad shot, someone was ready to cover him.
"Overall, it's really teamwork and cooperation.
"That's why today we were able to pull through, even through the tougher times.
"We really stepped up today. We have shown at least South-east Asia that Singapore are the team to beat."
With the team dedicating the triumph to their late coach Henry Tan, who also won this event at Malaysia 1977 and Singapore 1983, Cheah added: "It feels really surreal because when we came into this tournament, we expected to win just the bronze medal.
"So to win this gold medal is just unbelievable. All we wanted to do was to enjoy the process, and we achieved that. I'm proud to say that we made history."
Even though they did not medal in any of their previous events, national assistant coach Helmi Chew revealed the team did not make too many tweaks.
"We used the information learnt across the week and used it during the team event," he said.
"We stuck to our plan of bowling every single shot while sticking to our processes.
"Today's win was a team effort which includes the support system comprising the coaching staff, officials, psychologist and physiotherapist who all helped the team bowl their best."
While the men celebrated their monumental win, their women teammates Daphne Tan, Bernice Lim, New Huifen, Shayna Ng and Cherie Tan had to settle for another silver medal as Malaysia retained the gold they won at Singapore 2015.
The hosts led by as many as 204 pinfalls after five games and, despite faltering spectacularly with a total of just 920 pinfalls in their final game as none among their quintet broke 200, the gap was still too big for Singapore to make up as Malaysia won by 61 pinfalls with a 6,264 total.
Ng said: "Our spares were not that great, they have to be much better.
"Malaysia have been training on their home ground for months and, while it is no excuse, the lanes do play differently from what we are used to at home and it took us more time for us to adapt."
Women's singles champion Cherie, who was part of the team that lost to Malaysia by just 55 pinfalls in 2015, added: "We made a great comeback at the end, but we gave away too many points in the beginning and that made our job to win the gold very hard.
"We fought very well in the last few games. It is disappointing to win silver again, but we really gave it our all."
Heartbreak for golfer Ong as late bogey scuppers gold-medal hopes
After walking off the greens at the Mines Resort & Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, Marc Ong needed some time alone, and understandably so.
The 21-year-old Singaporean came within a whisker of writing his name into the Singapore history books, but fell agonisingly short in his attempt to become the Republic's first SEA Games golf gold medallist since 1989.
He lost to Thai winner Kosuke Hamamoto by one shot.
It was also in Kuala Lumpur that Samson Gimson won the men's singles gold medal and, for a while yesterday, it looked like Ong could end Singapore's 28-year drought.
He held a two-shot lead going into the final four holes, but Hamamoto birdied the 15th to narrow the deficit to one.
The turning point came on the 16th when Ong made a bogey and Hamamoto chipped in for an almost-impossible birdie. As a result, Ong went from holding a two-shot lead to trailing by one.
Ong carded a two-under 69 for a nine-under 204 total, just one stroke behind Hamamoto.
Another Thai golfer, Kammalas Namuangruk, took bronze.
"After I submitted my score card, I just wanted to be by myself in the changing room, and it got a bit teary, to be honest," Ong told The New Paper.
"I really felt that I could do it (win gold) this year, but the last few holes changed things."
Ong recalled what happened at the 16th hole, and the regret in his voice was unmistakable.
"(Hamamoto) got into a bad spot with his tee shot, and that chip-in took him from a bad spot to a birdie," said Ong of Hamamoto's chip from deep in the rough that looked like it had too much speed on it.
"It definitely gave me a surprise. You could hit 100 of those chips in training and probably only one would go in."
Ong tried to find the silver lining in defeat.
"A the start of the week, if I was told I'd win silver, I'd probably have taken it. But I thought I had the potential for gold, and I really did believe I could win it," he said.
Ong will get another shot at gold in the team event which starts today.
He believes Singapore will do well in the match-play format, judging by the performance of the other three golfers in the team - Gregory Foo (tied for fourth among 40 golfers), Joshua Shou (11th) and Joshua Ho (21st).
"I'm pretty sure the Thai golfers know that we are coming for them. We've lost to them in stroke play in the last couple of years, but match play is a different game," said Ong.
"If we get into the final, it's just one round of golf - and I think we've got a good chance."