Special Olympics: Rainer finds his stride in bowling

Rainer Yow was first diagnosed with Williams Syndrome at the age of two, and his mother Lorraine Khoo cried when told by a doctor that he would never be normal. But now, bowling has given him a chance to be proud of himself.
Rainer Yow was first diagnosed with Williams Syndrome at the age of two, and his mother Lorraine Khoo cried when told by a doctor that he would never be normal. But now, bowling has given him a chance to be proud of himself.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Rainer Yow scoring a strike VIDEO: LORRAINE KHOO

He has learning difficulty, lack of strength but masters techniques to compete in local meet

Landing a strike on the bowling lanes comes frequently for Rainer Yow nowadays. The 18-year-old even registered a turkey - three straight strikes - last month.

But when Rainer was just two years old, a doctor told his parents, Myles Yow and Lorraine Khoo, that their only son would never be able to perform simple movements like stacking items.

Rainer had been diagnosed then with Williams syndrome, a rare developmental disorder which affects one's learning ability.

His mother said they noticed something was wrong when Rainer could neither sit straight nor walk until he turned two. Babies typically walk and talk by the age of one.

When they were given the news of his diagnosis, his family did not imagine then that Rainer would become a sportsman. His three sisters are all athletes - a netballer, a footballer and a long jumper.

Lorraine, 46, said: "He's come a long way. He was the eighth known case in Singapore then. When the doctor told us, in a rather tactless way, that he would never be able to do it (stack items), I cried and was so sad.

"We tried to find positives in what he could do. We're happy that he's enthusiastic about the sport and he enjoys it. We're able to see the competitive and responsible side in him too.

"Even though he's a person with special needs, at least he's not left out in sports."

Rainer was first introduced to the sport during a school trip with Minds Towner Gardens School in 2014 at Kallang Leisure Park.

Sometimes, after hitting a strike, Rainer, who has a bubbly demeanour - a characteristic of Williams syndrome - does a little jig and shouts "Huat ah!" (Hokkien for "prosper").

But due to his condition, he has low muscle tone, which affects his mobility. He struggles with basic techniques like balancing with his 12-pound bowling ball and sliding.

Rainer said: "I'll get wobbly. So I have to practise twisting my body. It is hard because I will lose my balance and fall."

The Mountbatten Vocational School student will be competing in his first international competition at the Special Olympics Singapore National Games. The three-day meet, which began yesterday, brings together 650 intellectually disabled athletes from six South-east Asian countries competing across seven sports.

Rainer, who trains twice a week, will be among the 76 bowlers competing today at Temasek Club.

His long-term dream is to win a medal at the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

He wants to emulate the success of his friend and fellow bowler Vince Tan, who bagged a silver at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria in March. Rainer said: "I want to be like him and I want to win a gold medal one day."

President of Special Olympics Singapore, Teo-Koh Sock Miang, said: "We're celebrating our athletes' abilities. People might not see or understand that individuals with intellectual disabilities can become good athletes. Academics might not be an area where they can shine, but they can demonstrate to us in sports that they are so capable.

"The Special Olympics start as a nurturing ground for them to test themselves."

She joked: "I've even stopped comparing myself to them because I always lose."

To Lorraine, whether or not Rainer wins a medal is not that important, because she feels that it is already a triumph that Rainer can enjoy activities like go-karting, football and paragliding.

She said: "We don't expect him to win a gold medal yet because he's still improving. We just hope the doctor can see that he can do it in the end."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Rainer finds his stride in bowling'. Print Edition | Subscribe