Nominee #1: Muhammad Jaris Goh (bowling)

ST Athlete of the Year: Bowler Muhammad Jaris Goh is the glue and the fire too

National bowler Muhammad Jaris Goh talks about one of his toughest moments in 2018, while his father and coach reveal his hidden talents.

Bowler is the emotional core of a men's team who are on an upward trajectory

Muhammad Jaris Goh spun to face his teammates at the Jakabaring Bowling Centre, clenched his fists and screamed "Majulah!". This was a blazing August day in Palembang, and Goh had just led the Republic's men - who have long been overshadowed by their female counterparts - to the trios bronze medal at the Asian Games.

His antics were wildly entertaining for those watching from the sidelines, but they meant much more to the men standing around Goh. Indeed, it is this ability to spark a fire in the bellies of the troops around him that many believe has inspired the bowling men in what was a "superb 2018".

In addition to the Asiad medal, Goh also led the men to a team bronze at the World Men's Championships last month.

His ability to inspire a breakthrough in the team is a key reason he is a nominee for The Straits Times Athlete of the Year award.

"The men haven't produced results for some time, and this group of boys have started to do something, to get the bowling world to sit up and take notice," said national head coach Helmi Chew.

"The team atmosphere is a big part of that success, and a lot of that comes down to Jaris. He's like the fire of the team, if he's pumped up, then the team are pumped up.

"I've had many conversations with him about this, and he's matured a lot. He was that young guy who had many tantrums, he's learnt to control his emotions.

"Last year was a superb year and he's led by example and, more importantly, boosted the morale of the team."


Muhammad Jaris Goh's big personality has rubbed off on his teammates, with the group winning bronzes at the Asian Games and the World Championships owing largely to their strong team spirit. ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

The team atmosphere is a big part of that success, and a lot of that comes down to Jaris. He's like the fire of the team, if he's pumped up, then the team are pumped up.

HELMI CHEW, national bowling head coach, on what Goh brings to the team.

Goh's father Leonard is understandably proud of the young bowler, whose early years he was responsible for.

"Having a strong lower body is important for a bowler. I used to make him do squats if he didn't achieve certain targets in his games and, even as a young boy, he would happily do the squats so he would be allowed to play another game and try again," said the senior Goh, a bowling coach and pro shop operator.

"He never tired of the sport and was always very keen to learn. That was how I knew he would go far. And now, he is part of the backbone of the team and he's helping the younger generation to get to another level - I'm very proud of that," added the 62-year-old.

The award nominee is just delighted that he could play a part in a resurgence in men's bowling.

"The Asian Games was the most satisfying thing in 2018 - we came in with no expectations because we're a new team. It wasn't just about the bronze medal, it was the team spirit, even with the coaches," said the 23-year-old.

"It was a huge breakthrough for us, because Asia has many powerhouses in the sport, and that was when we realised that we could do it - go all the way to the world level.

"That performance put us on the map, made people start to look out for the Singapore men's bowling team, and in that sense that was more important to us than the World Championships."

He is already looking to the future.

"Several of us will go into full-time National Service, so the biggest challenge for us now is to stay together. But I believe we can achieve more together - maybe one or two more Asian Games," he said, acutely aware that his team are as important in inspiring him, as he is to the team.

"I'm more of a team player - I enjoy bowling with my teammates than as an individual. They know that I'm the one who starts the engine, so they pump me up too, it's a team thing. That's the part of bowling that I really do enjoy, and want to continue."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Goh's the glue and the fire too'. Print Edition | Subscribe