SINGAPORE - The national men's bowling team lost to a world-class American side in the semi-finals of the World Bowling Men's Championships but still secured a historic bronze medal on Tuesday (Dec 4).
Basil Ng, Keith Saw, Jonovan Neo, Darren Ong, Jaris Goh and reserve Joel Tan struggled to string strikes together at the South China Athletic Association bowling centre in Hong Kong.
However, they were awarded a medal despite their 238-194, 216-189 loss in the team-of-five event as losing semi-finalists are automatically placed third.
Italy, who pipped Canada 176-162, 210-244, 190-179 in the other semi-final, surprisingly went on to beat the Americans 189-169, 210-166 in the final.
The semi-finals and final were played in a best-of-three Baker format. In a team of five, this means the first player bowls Frames 1 and 6, the second player bowls Frames 2 and 7, and so forth.
In the first game, Saw suffered a split and an open second frame, as the Singaporeans managed just four strikes.
The United States, who have four PBA Players of the Year in their line-up - Andrew Anderson (2018), EJ Tackett (2016), Tommy Jones (2005/06) and Chris Barnes (2007/08) - capitalised with Jones, Barnes and Kyle Troup combining for a turkey through Frames 5 to 7.
The young Singapore team, with an average age of 22.3, started brighter in the second game as it was Tackett's turn to record a split and open fourth frame.
They held an 118-117 lead going into the seventh frame with both teams producing a strike in the sixth, but followed that up with Saw's spare and Neo's open eighth frame as the Americans raced away with a four-bagger.
Despite the defeat by a more experienced team with an average age of 32.8, Ng had no regrets. The 21-year-old said: "As bowlers, we are in control of only our own process and execution, and not the outcome. Our responsibility is to commit to our shots, which I feel we did.
"This tournament showed us the different lessons learnt from previous competitions played a big part in our development and motivated us to reach greater heights."
Goh, 23, added: "This has been a great opportunity to bowl with and learn from the best and we are very happy to be part of the team that created history. It is like a graduation for us from boys to men."
The team's latest achievement is a continuation of the upward trend that the nation's elite male bowlers have experienced in the last 16 months.
It comes hot on the heels of Alex Chong, Goh and Ong's men's trios bronze at August's Asiad, as they became Singapore's first male bowlers to win an Asian Games medal since 2010.
Last year, Cheah Ray Han, Timothy Tham, Ng, Ong, Goh and Saw topped the Asean field and ended Singapore’s 22-year wait for a men’s team bowling gold at the SEA Games..
Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua said: "We are extremely proud of this team and the secret to the team's success is belief - from the bowlers, coaches, parents and everyone at Singapore Bowling.
"We will continue to support these bowlers and pray they will receive the support they deserve from the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) too."
The team are now aiming to equal or better their results from the last SEA Games, and do well at the Asian Bowling Championships but their progress could be affected with Ng, Neo, Ong and Goh due to enlist for National Service next year.
National head coach Helmi Chew, who thanked sponsors Canon, Dynasty Travel, Singapore Airlines and Storm Products, as well as the SSI for its support, added: "We will be preparing for next year's SEA Games and we have a training programme lined up to equip them and improve them for upcoming competitions. We also have a weekend schedule for those in NS. The team understand the commitment and sacrifice required to achieve greater success."