Bowled over by S'pore men

Best-ever World C'ships team silver shows they can excel under pressure, have a positive mindset

The Singapore bowlers' impressive run to the men's team final at the International Bowling Federation (IBF) Super World Championships in Dubai earned them more than just a historic silver medal - it also reaffirmed their belief that they are moving in the right direction.

Despite losing to South Korea in the two-game final on Monday, Cheah Ray Han, Jonovan Neo, Darren Ong and Jomond Chia's silver adds to the list of significant milestones that the men's team have achieved in recent years.

Ong, 25, said: "It's a sign that the men's team is moving in the right direction and that we are capable of producing good performances consistently.

"All the hard work and dedication we put into our training is paying off."

Men's head coach Jason Yeong-Nathan attributed the male bowlers' success in recent years to the work they have done with Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) technical director Sid Allen.

Under Allen's guidance, Yeong-Nathan noted an improvement in the bowlers' ability to repeat shots consistently under pressure.

He feels that they have also honed the tactical side of their game by developing a better understanding of their equipment and playing different lanes.

Yeong-Nathan said: "During this competition, they were able to make decisions on their own which were right and that gave them more confidence in themselves.

"When things are not going well, they are calm and still have a positive mindset."

Against the Koreans, the quartet - who are the first Singapore men's team to qualify for a World Championship final - struggled to find their momentum in the opening game at the Sports, Fitness and Wellbeing Hub in Expo 2020 Dubai, losing 196-136.

They put in an improved performance in the second game, but fell short against rivals Kang Hee-won, Ji Geun, Go Jae-kyeok and Ka Soo-hyeong, who won 248-198.

Neo, 24, described it as a bittersweet moment as they missed out on being crowned world champions, but he remained proud of the team's performance.

Chia, 21, added: "Despite the poor start in the first game, we were able to bounce back and let our opponents know that we were still in it."

The previous best finish by Singapore's male bowlers on the global stage was at the 2018 World Bowling Men's Championships, where they clinched a historic bronze medal. Ong and Neo were part of that team with Basil Ng, Keith Saw, Jaris Goh and Joel Tan.

Ong and Cheah were also in the team who ended Singapore's 22-year wait for a men's team bowling gold at the SEA Games in 2017.

Chia, who is making his World Championships debut, has enjoyed success at the youth level, winning two gold medals at the 2019 Asian Youth Championships.

The Dubai tournament was Singapore's most successful campaign at a combined World Championships, as the squad returned with five medals.

Shayna Ng and Cherie Tan won gold and silver respectively in the women's singles final last Friday, while the women's trios of Ng, Tan, New Hui Fen and Iliya Syamim clinched a bronze.

Ng, Tan, Ong and Cheah also won a bronze in the mixed team event.

SBF president Valerie Teo said: "We are very proud of the team, it has been a very good outing. Eight athletes returning from world competition with medals is no mean feat."

"The team has taken away many lessons from these championships and will benefit from these as they prep for their next event."

Teo, herself a former national bowler, noted that the competition format was "gruelling" as the semi-finals and finals were held at a separate venue from the qualifying and quarter-final matches. This meant the bowlers had to adapt to the different lanes and conditions.

The semi-finals and finals were contested at purpose-built lanes outdoors, which was a first for many bowlers.

Cheah, 21, said: "It was an exciting experience. We did not do anything special other than to stick to our processes and take it one shot at a time. This mindset helped us to stay mentally sharp for as long as possible and not burn out, leading to some great performances on our part."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2021, with the headline 'Bowled over by S'pore men'. Subscribe