Circle now complete for veteran

They were top regional athletes competing for gold when Singapore last hosted the SEA Games in 1993. Now they are back in town, 22 years after their initial sporting exploits, continuing their involvement in sport. One is long-retired, while the other two are still going strong but ready to call it a day. The Straits Times recounts the trio’s careers after 1993

SHALIN ZULKIFLI, MALAYSIAN BOWLER

SINGAPORE holds many memories for Malaysian bowler Shalin Zulkifli.

It was where she made a name for herself on the international stage, winning two SEA Games gold medals as a 15-year-old on her debut at the 1993 edition.

It was also where the competitive fire that led her to become Asia's top-ranked bowler and a multiple Asian Games champion was first stoked.

And it is where she will retire from the sport after a career that has stretched across more than two decades.

Reflecting on her first experience of the biennial Games, the 37-year-old said: "I was the youngest member of the squad back then and I followed my seniors everywhere. It was such a fun experience for me."

What was perhaps less enjoyable though no less memorable was her encounter with Filipino legend Arianne Cerdena.

Paired in the same lane as the former world champion during the masters event at Victor's Superbowl, Shalin celebrated each strike with a scream and fist pump.

While a common sight these days, such antics were unheard of back then, she said with a laugh.

"(Arianne) scolded me and told me to stop making so much noise," she said. "But that's just how I am when I bowl and so I ignored her. She was pretty mad but that aggression is an important part of me."

Now a mother of one and with plans for another child, she has mellowed though her competitiveness still burns strongly.

She picked up a team gold yesterday and a doubles bronze on Wednesday to add to her 26-medal haul across six editions of the Games.

These Games will, however, be Shalin's last. She had originally planned to quit the national team after a final hurrah at last year's Asiad in Incheon where she won a doubles silver but was persuaded to stay.

She said: "I was asked to hang on for another six months ... until the SEA Games, and I decided to give it a shot. I love bowling so much but I will bowl for Malaysia only for as long as I think I can contribute and win medals.

"The younger bowlers are getting stronger and better too. I am sure they will step up for the coming Games, especially the next one in Kuala Lumpur."

A return to the Republic has completed the circle as she draws the curtains on her international career.

The masters event will be held tomorrow on the final day of competition and promises to be a poignant day for Shalin.

She said: "It is definitely an emotional moment but winning medals for Malaysia is my priority and it will give my retirement a nice ending."

jonwong@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Jeremy Lim

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