As competitive as they come

Joey Yeo, 17, receiving her prizes from F&N Foods marketing manager Celine Tan and ST sports editor Marc Lim.
Joey Yeo, 17, receiving her prizes from F&N Foods marketing manager Celine Tan and ST sports editor Marc Lim. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Joey's sheer drive helps her bounce back from bad start to win Bowling World Open

Her participation at last month's Bowling World Open in Japan may have ended in a historic triumph but the start had been one of near-disaster for Joey Yeo.

Unseeded and needing to clear the preliminary round of the world's richest bowling tournament, the 17-year-old struggled initially and was facing an early exit.

Left with one final chance at Tokyo's Shinagawa Prince Hotel Bowling Centre, she recovered with a three-game score of 725 to finish inside the top 20 and seal her spot in the qualifying round.

Raising her game at each subsequent stage against an elite field featuring top professionals from the United States, Europe and Asia, the Singaporean schoolgirl carried that blistering form into the final where she defeated top seed Birgit Poppler of Germany 207-204.


Joey Yeo, 17, receiving her prizes from F&N Foods marketing manager Celine Tan and ST sports editor Marc Lim. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

While she had won team titles at the Asian Games and Asian Bowling Championships, it was Joey's maiden major individual title and made up for the heartbreak of not being selected for the Republic's SEA Games squad.

She said: "I didn't have any expectations before the tournament and was just happy flying under the radar. But everything fell into place, I felt in the zone and it was a great feeling to win such a big event."

It is an achievement that vindicates her place in the nine-strong national women's team, who count world and Asian champions like Shayna Ng and Jazreel Tan in their ranks.

Joey's impressive feat also earned her the nod for The Straits Times' Star of the Month award for July.

AMAZING FEAT

I didn't have any expectations... But everything fell into place, I felt in the zone and it was a great feeling to win such a big event.''

JOEY YEO, Singapore bowler who won the Bowling World Open in Japan last month

The award is an extension of ST's Athlete of the Year accolade, launched in 2008. Both are backed by F&N's 100Plus.

Said ST sports editor Marc Lim: "At a time when bowling in Singapore is blessed with so many talented female bowlers, Joey's accomplishment stands out among the most impressive.

"Not only did she overcome the disappointment of missing out on the SEA Games to beat some of the best bowlers in the world, but she also delivered the gold medal even with the pressure of a huge pay cheque on the line."

Proving her maturity extends beyond the bowling lanes, the Raffles Institution Year 6 student has also pledged a portion of the 10 million yen (S$112,924) winner's cheque to charity. She has donated $5,000 each to ST's School Pocket Money Fund and the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home.

"I know how fortunate I have been and try not take anything for granted," she said. "If I can help others, even in some small way, I would like to try."

Do not be fooled by her bubbly personality though, noted Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua. "Joey is as competitive as they come," she said. "She's so driven and pushes herself very hard. We're all very proud of her."

While the impending A levels will occupy much of her focus, bowling will not be taking a back seat, stressed Joey, who has her eyes set on the World Championships in December.

"What happened in Japan was unforgettable but there's no point living in the past. There's always another challenge ahead and I'm excited about my future."

After all, the adventure has only begun for this precocious teenager.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'As competitive as they come'. Print Edition | Subscribe