Nominee #1: Bowler Shayna Ng

Ray of light amid tragedy

National bowler Shayna Ng with her folders of newspaper clippings at the Curious Palette on, Prinsep Street. Her aunt Margaret, who died last year, had been collating the files for more than 10 years.
National bowler Shayna Ng with her folders of newspaper clippings at the Curious Palette on, Prinsep Street. Her aunt Margaret, who died last year, had been collating the files for more than 10 years.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Ng finds renewed purpose in bowling following aunt's death The Straits Times honours five outstanding stars who form the nominees for the 2015 ST Athlete of the Year award. Their deeds inspired a nation, so we wanted to find out who inspired them, what drove them in their darkest hour, where they drew strength to pursue their sporting dreams.

Each time Shayna Ng made the news, her aunt Margaret would cut out the newspaper clipping and meticulously catalogue it. If the national bowler appeared on television, that segment would be recorded onto a CD to be filed away.

Those folders now sit in the storeroom of Ng's home in Ang Mo Kio, a memento of a woman's loving devotion to her niece.

While her aunt did not bowl, she always showed a keen interest in the game Ng excelled in and made it a point to attend the local competitions the national kegler participated in.

Her unmarried aunt's death at the age of 51 on July 11 after a long illness was a difficult time for Ng, who was competing in Japan when she heard the news. Her form in the subsequent tournaments dipped and her confidence was shaken.

"It was especially tough before and during the SEA Games. She was in Tan Tock Seng Hospital's ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and I tried to visit her when I could," Ng recalled of her father's younger sister.

But amid tragedy, the 26-year-old also found strength within herself and a renewed purpose in bowling.

Together with her coaches, Ng spent hours refining her technique and ended the year on a high, capturing the All Events title at the Women's World Bowling Championships in December.

It was also Singapore's first-ever gold at the prestigious biennial event and sealed Ng's spot as one of five nominees for The Straits Times' Athlete of the Year award.

The magnitude of her feat in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City against a world-class field continues to amaze Ng, whose score of 5,587 pinfalls was amassed over 24 games, five days and four events.

Crucially, it was one more pinfall than runner-up Liz Johnson of the United States. Needing a strike in her final throw to tie with Ng, the No. 8 pin refused to fall for the American.

Said Ng: "I was done with my game and watching Liz. It was a perfect shot from her. It entered at the right pocket and nine times out of 10 would have been a strike."

Perhaps luck, or "help from above from my aunt" as Ng jokingly calls it, played a part but this historic achievement was rooted in something simpler but no less divine.

Hard work.

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," noted Ng, reciting the famous quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca.

Success on the lanes is nothing new for the 2014 Sportswoman of the Year, who picked up the sport at 10. She is a multiple Asian Games champion, bagged the 2012 QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup and captured the 2013 International Bowling Championships.

She won the trios gold at last June's SEA Games on home soil and would have added another title had the all-events category - Ng had knocked down the most pins during the Games - been included in the competition.

Nevertheless, the victory in the Middle East remains the pick of the bunch and stands out even in a stellar year for Singapore bowling.

This shower of accolades has only made her hungry for more trophies and titles.

She said: "The sky's the limit. There's never enough. Being good is never good enough. It's not just me but the entire team. That's always been our mentality."

Such fearlessness is unsurprising from Ng, who boldly shaved her head in 2013 and raised $12,000 for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

"It's been an up-and-down year in many ways for me," she said. "A lot of hard times but they also really make me appreciate the victories when they do happen."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Ray of light amid tragedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe