Bowling: Controversial selection criteria casts doubt on quality of women's team for Asiad

(From left) Shayna Ng, Cherie Tan, Joey Yeo (reserve), Jazreel Tan, New Hui Fen and Daphne Tan with their gold medals from the women's team of five bowling event at Asian Games in 2014.
(From left) Shayna Ng, Cherie Tan, Joey Yeo (reserve), Jazreel Tan, New Hui Fen and Daphne Tan with their gold medals from the women's team of five bowling event at Asian Games in 2014. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The best six women bowlers may not get to represent the Republic at August's Asian Games in Indonesia owing to a change in the Singapore Bowling Federation's (SBF) internal selection policy.

So while the selection trials ended last Sunday, it remains unclear which of the 16 female bowlers have qualified for the nine-strong training squad before the cut to a final six is made.

The SBF changed its selection criteria for the talent-laden women's squad, which could see a player with no previous major Games experience included at the expense of a more seasoned athlete.

It has stipulated that a maximum of six bowlers with major Games experience - including World Championships - may qualify for the nine-member training squad.

From the squad, results and statistics from subsequent competitions will determine who makes the final six-woman team, but only a maximum of five may have major Games experience.

Under the new criteria, The Straits Times (ST) understands Cherie Tan, Shayna Ng, New Hui Fen, Jazreel Tan, Joey Yeo, and Bernice Lim will qualify as the top six in the training squad with major Games experience following last week's final six-game roll-off. But one of them will not make the final six for the Games.

NO RESTING ON LAURELS
We have a world-class group of woman bowlers - SBF's challenge is how do we make them even better, and to grow the depth and breadth of this group. Status quo is not our style. Until our council meets on March 12, it is premature for me to make any further comments.
JESSIE PHUA, SBF president, 
on talent development

Tracy See, Jermaine Seah and Iliya Syamim, ranked eighth to 10th, are through as the top three with no major Games experience.

Daphne Tan, the 2015 SEA Games women's singles champion who was part of the team that won gold at the 2014 Asiad, was seventh after six roll-offs and is set to miss out.

The current selection policy is SBF's third version for these Asian Games. The 22 male and 16 female participating bowlers were initially told in January a maximum of five with Asiad experience would be picked.

This clause was dropped on Feb 2 just before the first roll-off, which meant the top nine based on scores, spares, first-ball average and carry would make the training squad. A week later, after the fourth roll-off, the latest criteria were introduced.

It is believed there were no roll-offs for the 2014 Asiad, where Singapore's women keglers contributed one gold, two silvers and one bronze, and the players were selected by SBF coaches and approved by its council.

ST understands that the new criteria has prompted concerns about the women’s team’s ability to defend their title, leading to a meeting involving the SBF, Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore Sport Institute (SSI) on Monday.

This is especially so with the changes made to the competition format. In addition to a shorter programme - Indonesia has dispensed with the singles, doubles and all-events, and retained only the trios, team and masters - it will be a team-of-six event instead of the customary team-of-five.

SBF president Jessie Phua told ST: "We have a world-class group of woman bowlers - SBF's challenge is how do we make them even better, and to grow the depth and breadth of this group. Status quo is not our style. Until our council meets on March 12, it is premature for me to make any further comments."

It is understood that selection for the men's team follows the same format as for the women but does not include the requirement for a player who lacks major Games experience.The bowlers ST spoke to declined comment.

SSI chief Toh Boon Yi said: "The SBF invited the SSI to share our perspectives on the selection policy for Asian Games. We have provided our inputs for SBF's deliberation."

SNOC secretary-general Chris Chan added: "The main selection criteria of athletes to the major Games should be based on merit.

"The SNOC advocates transparency, fairness and clear communication by the national sports associations (NSAs) to their athletes in their selection processes."

The SNOC has consistently taken this stance. In 2011, table tennis was not on the initial list of sports approved by the SNOC for the SEA Games in Indonesia, after the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) decided to drop world-beaters Wang Yuegu, Li Jiawei and Feng for younger paddlers Isabelle Li, Zena Sim, Yu Mengyu and Sun Beibei.

The SNOC relented only after the STTA replaced Yu with then-world No. 2 Feng.

For the 2013 edition in Myanmar, the SNOC permitted Feng's omission as it deemed that the team of Lin Ye, Zhou Yihan, Yee Herng Hwee, Li and Yu were good enough, based on their world rankings.

NSAs have till end April to submit their nominations for the Asiad, which will be held in Jakarta and Palembang from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

The SNOC selection committee will meet on May 17 to make the cut. After the appeals meeting in June, NSAs need to submit entries to the SNOC in early July.