After 20-year wait, lawn bowler Amira Goh on verge of fulfilling dream of competing at Commonwealth Games

Fast, strong, and focused, the 67 Singaporeans in nine sports competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are an uncommon breed. Ahead of the quadrennial event's opening on Thursday (July 28), ST features six athletes who are unique in their own ways, be it in their choice of profession, personal lives or their sporting journeys. Today, we look at lawn bowler Amira Goh, who missed the boat to the 2002 edition but will now make her Games bow at the age of 63.

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She may belong to a rare breed of national athletes, but one thing lawn bowler Amira Goh has in common with many Singaporeans is she Grabs quite often... except she is the driver and not the passenger.

SINGAPORE - In a sport where games can last for up to three hours, patience is a virtue for lawn bowlers like Amira Goh.

It is a skill that Goh has also had to harness to make it to her first Commonwealth Games, a dream that has taken 20 years to materialise.

After an impressive outing by the lawn bowlers at the 2001 SEA Games in Malaysia, which saw her bag a bronze medal with teammates Margaret Lim, Lee Beng Hua and Wendy Chua in the women's four event, they harboured hopes of being selected for the Manchester Commonwealth Games the following year.

But that did not happen and work commitments led to Goh stepping down from the national team shortly after, before she made a comeback in 2017.

Two years later, Goh, Lim and their teammate Shermeen Lim struck gold at the 2019 SEA Games, the Republic's first since 1999, but endured a wait to see if they would be selected for the Commonwealth Games as the pandemic hit. To their relief, they were among the 67 athletes who were selected for the trip to Birmingham.

For Goh and Co, it is a major milestone because the sport is not on the Olympic programme. The quadrennial Commonwealth Games are thus the biggest multi-sport event in lawn bowls.

The 63-year-old said: "After we got the gold at the 2019 SEA Games, everyone said it represented a good chance to go for the Commonwealth Games. That's all we wanted, that was the ultimate thing that we wanted: to go to the Commonwealth Games after missing out the last time.

"We said, 'Let's just pray hard' and then Covid came, after that nothing, no competitions until now. We are lucky in a way that (Commonwealth Games Singapore) and Sport Singapore decided to send us. If not, it would have been heartbreak again. It was a 20-year wait, it's been so long. I'm happy that it turned out well."

Now Goh is looking forward to competing in one of the biggest stages of her sporting career, which began in her teenage years.

Her love for sport began in the 1970s when she picked up hockey in secondary school. But growing up at a time when mindsets were conservative, she initially faced some resistance to pursuing the sport.

She recalled how it took some convincing from her grandmother, teacher and coach before her father finally relented and let her go on a trip to India with the combined schools team.

That was the first of many overseas hockey trips to come for the forward, who went on to represent the Republic after being called up to the national team at 16, going for competitions such as the 1982 Asian Games, the first time that women's hockey featured at the quadrennial tournament.

Goh finally decided to leave hockey in the early 1990s, before she began dabbling in another sport - lawn bowls - in the latter part of the decade.

She and her late husband, who was a member of the Singapore Cricket Club, were intrigued by lawn bowls after watching people play on the club greens and an invitation to join a social session kickstarted Goh's return to competitive sport.

Six months after getting into lawn bowls, she went for her first international competition in 1999, the same year that Rosemary Tessensohn won a gold medal at the SEA Games in Brunei.

And after winning a bronze and gold at the SEA Games, Goh, Margaret and Shermeen are hoping to make their mark at the Birmingham Games.

Amira Goh is looking forward to competing in one of the biggest stages of her sporting career. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO AND CHONG JUN LIANG

They know that replicating their gold-medal feat in Britain will be a lot harder, with global powerhouses like Australia also in the fray, but the trio are hoping to put up a respectable challenge.

Goh recalls how the day before their 2019 SEA Games final against the Filipino hosts, she and her teammates sang Majulah Singapura together in their hotel room that night after she shared that she had dreamt of singing the national anthem on the podium.

The next day, her dream became a reality as they emerged victorious in the final and an emotional Goh stood on the podium as the national anthem blared from the speakers at the venue in New Clark City.

This is a moment they want to relive, with Goh saying: "It was a nice feeling to win something like that and that's why we want to relive this kind of dream if we can. This is a different level, so we are asking a lot of ourselves. But you have to aim high."

She hopes that their participation can also help to create more awareness about lawn bowls and encourage more to take up the sport. In addition to that, as someone in her 60s, the Grab driver wants to set an example for others to follow and hopes to see more opportunities for seniors to try various sports, even at a competitive level.

She said: "If something can be done for people of a certain age for people to come forward and try sports out, it's a good thing."

Team Singapore's lawn bowlers at the Commonwealth Games:

  • Women's singles: Shermeen Lim Xin Yi
  • Women's triples: Amira Goh Quee Kee, Margaret Lim Poh Eng, Shermeen Lim Xin Yi

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