Bowling: Singapore Bowling Federation to field at least 2 female major Games rookies for 2019 SEA Games

Charlene Lim, 19, cruised to a 203-155 pinfall victory over Geraldine Ng to clinch the women's title in the 49th Singapore National Championships yesterday at the SingaporeBowling @ Rifle Range bowling centre. Fellow teenager Jomond Chia, 18, was the
Charlene Lim, 19, cruised to a 203-155 pinfall victory over Geraldine Ng to clinch the women's title in the 49th Singapore National Championships yesterday at the SingaporeBowling @ Rifle Range bowling centre. Fellow teenager Jomond Chia, 18, was the men's champion.PHOTO: ALVIN HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Teenagers win both national titles, federation to blood youth at SEA Games

Charlene Lim's sporting philosophy is encapsulated in just one word: Fight.

The 19-year-old was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia, an acute form of cancer of the white blood cells, when she was three. She was cured four years after that.

She also took up taekwondo last year to improve her balance and leg strength and owns a blue belt in the martial art.

But yesterday, the Republic Polytechnic student did not have to fight too hard, as she cruised to a 203-155 pinfall win over Geraldine Ng to clinch the women's title in the 49th Singapore National Championships at the SingaporeBowling @ Rifle Range bowling centre.

The Singapore Sports School graduate was third in qualifying, behind Shayna Ng and Joy Yap, but topped the 10-game Masters segment yesterday for top seeding in the three-bowler stepladder finals.

Ng, 32, edged out national teammate Jazreel Tan 209-204 in the first phase of the finals, before losing to Lim.

Lim said: "I am delighted; I've always wanted to win the national championships but I never thought that I would do it so soon.

"I wasn't bowling that well when the competition started on Monday, but I started doing better from Wednesday onwards because I made some changes to my game, equipment and decision-making."

She had more reason to celebrate yesterday after being named the Singapore Bowling Federation's Youth Bowler of the Year for her achievements last year. Cherie Tan won the Bowler of the Year gong.

Youth bowlers also shone in the men's stepladder finals, as 18-year-old Jomond Chia beat 21-year-old Ahmad Safwan Shamsudin 195-223, 255-233 to win the men's title.

Chia endured discomfort from a wound on his right middle finger during the duel with Safwan, but came up victorious.

"The skin tore during the tournament but it got better when I took a rest after making qualification," said the first-year Anglo-Chinese Junior College student.

"It got worse during the Masters today and tore again during the finals, but I just had to bear with the pain.

"During the finals I took my friends' advice that the first game wasn't too important. I focused on getting my footing during the first game and came back in the second."

There was more good news for the youngsters too, as Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua told The Sunday Times that it aims to field at least two female bowlers with no prior major Games experience for the SEA Games in the Philippines next year.

She said: "We have already disseminated the information to the teams, that we will make sure that those who have never gone to the major Games will be given at least two places in the women's team.

"For them, we recognise that there is quite a bit of a gap between our first-tier world champions and the emerging ones and the SEA Games is a very good stepping-out point for the emerging bowlers."

She added that the men's team will comprise the six best bowlers, regardless of major Games experience.

The SBF had attempted to introduce a similar policy for this year's Asian Games, but had to revert to sending the best six bowlers after a meeting with the Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore Sport Institute following concerns.

The team returned from Jakarta with two bronzes - a dip from the previous campaign in 2014, when they won a gold, two silvers and a bronze.

Asked what lessons the SBF learnt from the selection debacle this year, Phua said: "We knew what the problem was at the beginning of the year, which was why we hoped that we would be given the opportunity to do what needed to be done.

"We are not happy with the outcome but it's a case of, 'We told you so'. It was a very heavy price to pay for the lesson, but we hope that the women's team will come back stronger and better and attain that kind of acclaim that they truly deserve because they are world champions."

Asked if this selection policy would yield a team capable of challenging for medals, Phua said: "I don't think our emerging bowlers are pushovers.

"The reality is that at some point, you have to face up to the level of competition that is out there.

"If you have thrown your hat into the ring and want to be selected to represent Singapore, you should be up to the test."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 18, 2018, with the headline 'Youth comes to the fore'. Print Edition | Subscribe