Women bowlers deliver historic team Asiad gold
It was an all-out assault on one colour.
A colour that adorned the wrist of some, covered the fingers of others, and occupied the mind of every single person in a Singapore bowling shirt.
They wanted it around their necks.
Gold fuelled the drive, it heaped on the pressure and, yesterday, at the Anyang Hogye Gymnasium, Singapore's female bowlers finally got their hands on what they had set their minds on - a first gold in the team event at an Asian Games.
With 6,119 pinfalls, the quintet of Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan, Shayna Ng, New Hui Fen and Jazreel Tan beat a thus-far dominant South Korean team (6,048) to the finish line, with Indonesia (5,840) a distant third.
Behind the black that they wore on the lanes yesterday was the coming together of a spectrum of individual colours that culminated in the gold that they wore around their necks.
From the struggling star to the bubbly rookie, the varied hues of the women shone through as they finally let their hair down at a fitness park across the street from the arena.
"We really wanted this gold and I can't quite describe the feeling - it's just awesome," said Jazreel, a self-professed lover of gold accessories, who happened to be fiddling with a rose-gold bracelet and ring - both her mother's - that she wore on either hand.
The 25-year-old's total score in the singles, doubles, trios and team events was enough to also see her win an All-Events bronze medal.
While Jazreel was relatively consistent here, Ng, Singapore's most recent Sportswoman of the Year, had endured a torrid time, plagued by pressure and poor form.
But she was positively beaming yesterday, her six-game average of 211.50 the best of all the Singapore women.
"Personally, there was a lot of expectations from everyone. I took a bit of time to get back on form, but better late than never. I'm glad to be going home with a gold," said the 24-year-old, whose total score was not enough for her to make the Masters event today.
Her Asiad is over, but she leaves Korea with more than just a piece of metal attached to a pretty piece of string.
Ng will return home with perhaps something even more valuable - a lesson.
"It's not been so hard before... and I've no one to blame but myself. I gave myself a lot of pressure and I'm never going to do that again," she said.
While Ng and Jazreel cried after the win, Cherie remained stoic.
She stood straight and tall, speaking of targets and promises.
"The burden is finally off. We finally delivered that gold that we said we would," said the left-hander.
Her first thought after winning the event was: "Why are they all crying?"
It wouldn't be hard to imagine her saying that in the gruff tone of Christian Bale's Batman.
Cherie's younger sister, the adorably eccentric Daphne, was at the other end of the spectrum.
DO OR DIE
"I came to the Games with a do-or-die attitude," said the 23-year-old, who is said to randomly break out in dance.
"I do lor, so I don't die," she quipped.
The edgy New and the sixth member of the team, rookie reserve Joey Yeo, could not be more different.
Even standing still, New had a swagger, while 16-year-old Joey was just constant motion, the yellow of her braces, glasses and runner band at the end of her ponytail gleaming with every hop.
They all came together, united in "hate" for coach Remy Ong, they said.
"This team have been together for quite a long time, but we have become even closer over the last four to five years, and we've come together because we hate him," said Jazreel, wearing a grin, with her tongue firmly in cheek..
Suddenly serious, she explained: "He was really harsh on us. His scoldings and sarcasm got us worked up, only for us then to learn to control our emotions - we've slowly understood (the importance) of this part of his training."
Dazed and staring into space as he took a breather from the action on the lanes yesterday, it was evident that Ong - Singapore's No. 1 bowler in his pomp - had invested all of himself to this cause.
Charlie to the Republic's bowling angels, Ong hailed the coming together of every facet of the machinery for the win.
"From logistics, to food and scheduling, every single thing was covered - it helped ease the burden of coaching," he said.
"Achieving the historic gold is something I'm really proud of - I'm proud of the whole team."
And he was already casting his eye on blending bowling's colours for the next shot at gold.
"We managed to find the winning formula for this competition, but the same may not work elsewhere, conditions will be different," he said.
"And people - they are also all different."