October winner: Bernice Lim

Graduating to higher honours

Bernice Lim (middle), the ST Star of the Month for October, with ST's assistant sports editor Chia Han Keong and Jennifer See, the general manager of F&N Foods Singapore.
Bernice Lim (middle), the ST Star of the Month for October, with ST's assistant sports editor Chia Han Keong and Jennifer See, the general manager of F&N Foods Singapore.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Bernice Lim makes her breakthrough to be a great bowler after completing her studies

Graduation is a major milestone for most undergraduates, as it often marks their transition from academic to working life.

For Bernice Lim, completing her studies at Nanyang Technological University in June last year meant that she could finally devote her time - not to work, but to become a full-time bowler instead.

A year on, the sports science and management degree holder has tasted a breakthrough on the lanes.

The 24-year-old finished third last month at the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup, a fitting sequel to her biggest individual success - winning the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Queens event in May.

She was the first Singaporean to win the event, the first of four Majors in the Professional Women's Bowling Association tour, in the event's 55-year history.

STEPPING STONE

It was equivalent to winning a world title because that was the highest competition standard, where I was competing against and beating the top European and US bowlers.

BERNICE LIM, on winning the United States Bowling Congress Queens event in May.

Still, she has had to bide her time, waiting patiently for success in the strong women's national bowling team.

She said: "Actually I was happy to graduate because it meant I could then focus on bowling full-time. Before that, I was probably the only one, besides Joey (Yeo), who was still studying, and when we went for competitions, you would see me studying in the room.

She joked: "I was envious of my team-mates because they didn't need to study. But after I graduated, I now have that life."

The kegler's success earned her the nod for The Straits Times' Star of the Month for October. 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 Chia Han Keong, ST's assistant sports editor: "In a year filled with breakthroughs by Singaporean athletes, we are happy to celebrate Bernice's rise to the top of her sport. She has shown us that dedication will eventually be rewarded with success."

Even though she only finished third at the World Cup in Shanghai, it was nonetheless a result she was proud of, as it showed an overall trend of consistency in recent months.

She held the lead after five days at the event, but as the top seed, she fell in the step-ladder finals, losing to eventual champion Jenny Wegner of Sweden 227-204.

Lim said: "It's hard to express how finishing third is an achievement. To put it in another way, I'm third in the world and that's the ranking I hold. Bowling is not as straightforward as it looks. You can throw a good shot but the outcome might not reflect or show it."

While she could not replicate the successes of Jasmine Yeong-Nathan and Shayna Ng, who won the prestigious event in 2008 and 2012 respectively, Lim had already made history for Singapore bowling back in May, with her win in the USBC Queens event.

She said of her Las Vegas feat: "It was a breakthrough for me and the team. It was equivalent to winning a world title because that was the highest competition standard, where I was competing against and beating the top European and US bowlers. It was the greatest achievement so far in my career."

In the final, which was aired live to millions on America's CBS Sports, she maintained her cool under the glare of the cameras to take the title.

It is this steel and this composure under pressure that she feels she has added into her game. She said: "The best bowlers can control their emotions and not let it affect them when competing. I still feel nervous and excited, but I think I'm managing my emotions better and keeping them in check, and that comes with experience."

One area she will have to get used to is living in the public eye. Following her Queens victory, the number of followers on her Instagram account surged by almost 1,000.

She said: "It's quite funny that I've developed a fan base suddenly. It's still nothing compared to Jazreel (Tan) and Shayna (Ng), but it's a new thing for me that people look up to me and they recognise me now because winning the Queens title has made it global."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Graduating to higher honours'. Print Edition | Subscribe