Singapore bowling chief urges youngsters to seize their chance
Bowling chief Phua challenges much-changed men's team to step up at this year's SEA Games
With a young squad, they won a gold, a silver and a bronze at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.
It was considered a breakthrough for the national men's bowling team, given the relative inexperience of the keglers, compared to their opponents.
While the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) had hoped to build on the 2015 Games for this year's edition in Kuala Lumpur in August, the national sports association will have to rebuild its team with the absence of several members of the previous team.
Howard Saw, who clinched the doubles gold with his younger brother Keith, has left the team, while Javier Tan, who won a singles bronze, is now training to be a pilot.
Also, Justin Lim is studying to be a doctor, while Joel Tan and Keith are serving their full-time National Service.
"We have been working in four-year cycles to coincide with the Asian Games and, for three cycles, we have been facing the same problem," SBF president Jessie Phua lamented on the sidelines of the NSA's annual dinner and awards night at the Royal China restaurant at Raffles Hotel last night.
"Every time we have an athlete who is on the brink of breaking through, NS happens and, after two years, very few of them feel the same intensity and passion for the sport."
She added that the men's and women's teams are afforded the same resources and attention, but the likes of Jazreel Tan, Shayna Ng, Daphne Tan, Cherie Tan, Bernice Lim and New Hui Fen "stayed the course", despite numerous failures over about a decade in the sport.
STAYED THE COURSE
She said: "During the early years when they went out, they got whipped, but they stayed the course. They came home, they cried, but they came back stronger, and that's why they are where they are now."
She is hoping that teenagers such as Cheah Ray Han, 17, Marcus Kiew, 19, and Timothy Tham, 17, can step up and perform at the SEA Games in August.
Phua said: "Being able to step up, stay calm, stay patient, seize the opportunity; that is what we want of the men's team."
"I hope to make the SEA Games squad... and if I do, I hope to win some medals," said Ray Han, who was the youngest men's bowler ever to win the Singapore National Bowling Championship last year.
He was awarded the SBF's Youth Bowler of the Year accolade last night, while the Bowler of the Year gong went to New Hui Fen.