World champions from Singapore’s sports scene?
You can count them on the fingers of your hands. Badminton’s Wong Peng Soon, bowling’s Adelene Wee, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan and Shayna Ng, and fencing’s Lau Ywen rank among them.
So does bowler Remy Ong, whose moment of crowning glory was winning the WTBA World Tenpin Bowling Championships title in Busan, South Korea, in 2006.
But Ong’s path to sporting success differs from the rest. Peng Soon and Adelene arrived at a time when pursuing sports was a fully amateur endeavour, and the other three struggled with their decision to combine studies with sports before they were able to fulfil their athletic dreams in the international arena.
Conversely, Ong decided to put his polytechnic studies on hold for two years in 1995 to concentrate on bowling full time. This decision befuddled his parents and friends who thought he was making a silly move, but it paid off when he clinched three gold medals and achieved his personal goal of eclipsing global sensation Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
A natural sportsman, Ong, 40, dabbled in badminton, basketball, football and softball in his younger years, and settled on pursuing bowling, a sport introduced to him by his Uncle Vincent and Auntie Annie when he was only 10.
He recounted meeting instant “success” in the sport, when he accidentally bowled a strike on his first attempt at the Kallang Bowler Drome. In actual fact, the 10-year-old had slipped and unintentionally veered the bowling ball down the lane knocking down all 10 pins.
It was uphill from there for the Catholic High student, who became a national bowler when he was only 16.
Said Ong at a recent interview in Bugis Junction: “Sports is all about focus and discipline. You have to work hard, follow a strict training schedule and look at each tournament as a stepping stone to the next.
“Mistakes happen but you must work towards not repeating them. You cannot afford to choke at crunch time.”
The southpaw, who does most things with his left hand except playing golf, roller hockey and ice hockey, made his name at the 2002 Asian Games as captain of the men’s bowling team, winning three gold medals in the Singles, Trios and Masters events. He also clinched the All-Events title, a non-medal event.
That feat led to him being named Sportsman of the Year in 2003. In the same year, he bagged the Singapore Youth Award and was conferred a Public Service Medal by the Government for his yeomen service to bowling.
Ong currently runs a bowling outfit. He is the co-founder of the National Service Resort and Country Club (NSRCC) Bowling Academy, and supervises coaches and bowlers at both NSRCC and Temasek Club on a regular basis.
Ong also co-founded Sponzer Group, a digital and interactive sponsorship outfit for athletes, with buddy Raymond Teoh. The pair aims to help budding athletes seek sponsorship in their pursuit of glory. Incidentally, Ong used to golf regularly to widen his network of contacts and friends and help secure sponsorship for promising athletes.
Once a 10-handicapper who could drive 250 metres, he can still shoot a decent score even after a two-year layoff to focus on his businesses. Having also won an Excellence for Singapore award in 2001, there’s no denying that excellence truly is Ong’s middle name.