ST Athlete of the Year: Bowler Shayna Ng overcomes pandemic struggles to claim a third world title

From now till April 22, ST will honour outstanding Singaporeans who are nominees for the 2021 ST Athlete of the Year award. They defied the odds, injuries and the pandemic to chase their sporting dreams, setting new standards of excellence for others to follow.

Shayna Ng clinched the International Bowling Federation Super World Championships women's singles title in November 2021. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - So used to travelling every month for competitions, national bowler Shayna Ng struggled to find any drive when the world stood still during the pandemic.

Returning to the lanes after Singapore's two-month circuit breaker was even tougher, she recalled.

"When we were training at home, it was still OK," she said. "It was more of having to come back after not bowling for two months. I felt very stuck and after a while, I struggled with motivation a bit because we were training with no competition.

"I'm the kind who would do something for a purpose and if there are no competitions, I find it very hard to train. So I started questioning myself and asking what's the purpose of trying to get back."

After speaking to a sport psychologist, Ng, 32, realised she was looking at things wrongly and decided to shift her focus.

She said: "I told myself not to look at it as 'there's no competition so I don't want to train'. It should be that 'I have so much time to train now and can work on things I wanted to but didn't have time to'."

She focused on areas like her movements and her hand position to give her more versatility in her game. Changing how she held the ball alone required three months to master.

These efforts paid off as Ng clinched the International Bowling Federation Super World Championships women's singles title last November in Dubai, a triumph that has earned her nomination for The Straits Times Athlete of the Year, which is backed by 100 Plus.

It was an intense final against compatriot Cherie Tan. Both split the first two games before Ng won a ninth and 10th frame roll-off.

It did not help that she was bowling outdoors for the first time and that the heat caused sweat to drip from her forehead, which does not usually happen in the sport.

After Ng won, she sat down, buried her face in her hands and cried - only to get up almost immediately while sporting a straight face.

She recalled: "I was going to let it all out but I remembered that my best friend told me I look ugly when I cry and I remembered that I had to go through the prize presentation."

Ng, who first joined the national team in 2006, has now claimed three world titles. She bagged the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup in 2013 and the all events gold medal at the 2015 Women's World Bowling Championships in Abu Dhabi.

She said: "At a certain point, I'm not sure of how many world titles I can win because I'm not very young and I've been bowling for a while. To actually win something takes a lot more.

"There were times I questioned if I'm going to end my career with two world titles... I didn't know if I could do it again and with the pandemic, everything was very uncertain. We didn't even know if the world championships were going to happen until June or July.

"It's reassuring to know that I can keep maintaining my form after all these years. It was a great outing not just for myself, but Singapore bowling as a whole."

Shayna Ng focused on areas like her movements and her hand position to give her more versatility in her game. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Besides turning her attention to this year's Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour in the United States, she wants to pass as much of her knowledge and experience as possible to her juniors.

Ng said: "Singapore sport has come a long way. 10 years ago, athletes had to juggle with sport and studies or work so it was very hard to lengthen an athlete's lifespan.

"Then came the Spex Scholarship which makes us able to train full-time and have some financial stability and support, so that's a huge factor why this batch of bowlers can last for so long and this will be more prevalent in other sports as well."

Highlighting the achievements of other local athletes last year, Ng added: "These, like Joseph's (Schooling) gold medal, show we're heading in the right direction. I hope that in the long run, we can keep this going and see all other sports come to such levels as well.

"Because having our country do well in one or two sports is good but it would be better to have us do well in more sports. Our population is very small but I think if we want to, we can make a statement."

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