Bowling: Ng pins her hopes for the future on resilience, self-belief

Shayna Ng, who won the all-events gold at the Women's World Bowling Championships, foresaw her own emerging success by predicting it in a time capsule at CHIJ Secondary.
Shayna Ng, who won the all-events gold at the Women's World Bowling Championships, foresaw her own emerging success by predicting it in a time capsule at CHIJ Secondary.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Three years ago at the Sky Bowling Centre in Wroclaw, Poland, Shayna Ng scaled the summit of her sport, winning the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup.

Success and all that it entailed was sweet, even more so for Ng, who in 2007 was relegated to the junior squad due to her poor attitude in training and was only reinstated to the national team two years later.

But the genial bowler with the funky hair and toothy grin admitted that the World Cup win came too soon.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the Temasek Club, home of the national team, the 26-year-old candidly confessed that at the time, she was not ready for the pressure and expectations that came with being a world beater.

And maybe, just maybe, she allowed the success to get to her head, as she went into a slump following her Polish exploits.

GOING BACK TO BASICS

What drew me to bowling at the start was the sound of the ball hitting the pins, that 'ping' sound that fills the bowling alley. And of course the adrenaline from getting a strike.

Going back to these main reasons kept me going.

SHAYNA NG, on how she came back after being dropped from the national team

But two weekends ago in Abu Dhabi, Ng dismissed any concerns over her game when she won the all-events gold at the Women's World Bowling Championships.

She said: "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but after the World Cup, suddenly everyone knew me. Reporters were interviewing me, I went to sports events and people, even ministers, recognised me.

"Maybe I got a little carried away by the fame.

"Because I was a World Cup winner, people expected me to win again and again.

"It was hard to juggle all these because I didn't like to let people down."

While she won the International Bowling Championships title a month after the World Cup, Ng admitted she went into a "lull period" as the scrutiny and pressure intensified.

Filled with doubt and insecurity, she even had fleeting thoughts of retirement as she failed to hit the lofty targets she had set.

"There were times when I didn't believe in myself, but a lot of people kept faith in me, including my family, coaches and sponsors. Their support really helped," she said.

She reflected on her bowling journey, sometimes with her sports psychologist at the Singapore Sports Institute, and went back to when she first picked up a bowling ball at 10.

"What drew me to bowling at the start was the sound of the ball hitting the pins, that 'ping' sound that fills the bowling alley. And of course the adrenaline from getting a strike. Going back to these main reasons kept me going."

This "lull period", Ng said, elicited memories of the time when she was dropped from the national team in 2007.

Then, she had responded by logging more hours on the lanes. For a few months, she even bowled without pins, firing ball after ball into emptiness as she focused on perfecting her footwork, swing and release.

This approach, Ng said, subconsciously helped in her final two frames at the World Championships, when she needed four consecutive strikes to get the gold.

"I took a deep breath, and focused on the process. Everything kind of slowed down, I felt like I had more time to visualise and gather myself."

Strike she did, beating the United States' Liz Johnson to the gold by a single pinfall.

With the win, Ng joined a select club of bowlers who have won both the World Cup and gold medals at the World Championships. They include some of the sport's biggest names such as Qatar's Ahmed Shaheen and Shannon Pluhowsky of the US.

"It's an honour to know I'm in that league, to know that my effort paid off," said Ng.

It also fulfilled her dream of becoming a world champion, one she had scribbled on a piece of paper and placed in a time capsule when she graduated from CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh), a rite of passage for all graduating students.

The World Cup features only one bowler from each country and some countries give it a miss. But for the World Championships, each country sends six of its best bowlers. The tournament includes giants like South Korea and the US.

"Now the dream is for Singapore to win the team event, for everyone to come back with a gold medal. This would be really impactful not just for bowling but sport in Singapore, which is something I'm very passionate about," said Ng.

Three years on, she is back at the top of her sport. The difference, one suspects, is she knows just what to do to stay there.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Ng pins her hopes for the future on resilience, self-belief'. Print Edition | Subscribe