New home for Singapore bowling
She has been fighting for a home for her sport for years, and Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) president Jessie Phua will finally get her wish later this year.
The national sports association (NSA) is setting up a 38-lane bowling centre at the Temasek Club at Rifle Range Road, which will be ready for operations in the third quarter of the year.
Speaking on the sidelines of the SBF New Year dinner at the American Club last night, Phua said: "We (were in talks) with the Temasek Club last year, but it is a huge investment on our part and some of the council members were worried.
"The Temasek Club understood our position... and gave us a deal that we couldn't refuse."
The new bowling centre will cost more than $2 million, which SBF will fund with the aid of Sport Singapore.
The national team train primarily at the National Service Resort & Country Club, with Safra Mount Faber or the Orchid Country Club also used for certain competitions.
Phua first told The New Paper of her plan to find the federation a home in 2013.
The new centre will be used by the national teams as well as the public, and will also be home to Centres of Excellence.
The Singapore National Olympic Council member said: "This is a very important venture for us - we hope to eventually have three centres - and we really hope that we can be the first NSA here to be financially independent.
"We will see how the first year goes, but I am pretty confident that we will be in the not-so-distant future."
Phua has already opened discussions with clubs and schools for the subsequent centres, but gave no timeline on when they would materialise.
SBF council member and the federation's head of Sports for All, Amas Tan, will step down from his positions to become the director of operations at the new bowling home.
Phua revealed that the federation had considered getting the centre ready in time for the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June, but ultimately decided they did not want to sweat over timelines for construction and operations.
"With the best-case scenario, we would have been able to get things ready just before SEA Games, but we didn't want to be floored by any unforeseen circumstances during the Games," said Phua.
"Having the SEA Games at our new bowling centre would have been a great curtain-raiser for the facility, but the timing was too dicey (to risk it)."
The SEA Games bowling competition will be held at the Orchid Country Club instead, the usual venue for the Singapore Open.
At the dinner, Jazreel Tan, who won four medals at the Incheon Asian Games last year - one gold, two silver and one bronze - was named Bowler of the Year, while Joel Tan clinched the Youth Bowler of the Year accolade.
SBF admin manager Shirine Dhillon was also recognised for her 21 years of service.
They each received a cheque for $2,000, as well as Canon products.
National deputy head coach Francis Yeo was also recognised for his 10 years of service in the SBF.
Men progressing, women hot favourites
"They are slowly getting better; it used to be a case where the guys would make up the numbers during competitions, but in recent times they have started to make it to the podium." - National coach Remy Ong (above), on the men's team. - PHOTO: TNP FILE
In recent years, the men's national bowling team have been outshone by their female counterparts.
But Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) president Jessie Phua and national coach Remy Ong believe the men will come good, starting with the South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil in June.
Speaking on the sidelines of the SBF's annual New Year dinner last night, Phua said: "Remy said that if the current crop stay committed, they can put the women's team in their shadow.
"They were so close to winning medals at the Asian Games last year, and they were devastated they didn't pull it off."
Unlike the women, Singapore's male bowlers have the added hurdle of juggling training with National Service duties.
The 2014 men's training squad were 31-strong, headlined by Sportsboy of the Year winners Muhammad Jaris Goh and Keith Saw, along with Joel Tan, who was crowned SBF Youth Bowler of the Year at the dinner last night.
All three keglers are 20 or under this year.
Former world champion Ong said: "The current crop have potential, and even now they can match the women's team. But that will not be enough for them to win in the men's competitions.
"They are slowly getting better; it used to be a case where the guys would make up the numbers during competitions, but in recent times they have started to make it to the podium.
"I don't know how long it will take to get them up to world-class standard. Maybe after a while they may be thinking about other things, such as their career or starting a family."
According to Phua, the men's team have a good chance of winning medals at this year's SEA Games. She claims the women's team are so strong the competition is theirs to lose, pointing to the team gold won at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, last year as proof of their superiority.
Reflecting on the Asian Games campaign, Ong noted that both the teams need to be mentally stronger.
He said: "We will need to improve in terms of our mindset. Mentally we were a bit weak during the Asian Games.
"But we will have Stevenson (Lai, sports psychologist) helping the bowlers.
"He was a big help to me during my career and it will be the same for the team."