Story by Jan Lin/Red Sports. Photos by Marvin Lowe/Red Sports.
Singapore’s bowling representatives at the inaugural Asian Youth Games. Four boys and four girls were selected from a pool of twelve bowlers after the selection camp in May. (Photo © Marvin Lowe/Red Sports)
It took an intensive three-day camp for the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF) to determine the final selection of the eight bowlers to represent the republic at the inaugural Asian Youth Games (AYG). Not only that, the camp was also the SBF's strategy to foster camaraderie amongst both the girls and boys teams.
Four boys and four girls were selected from a pool of twelve after the stay-in camp in May. Basil Low, Brandon Lee, Christopher Hwang and Justin Lim will be flying the republic's flag for the boys. Anthea Soh, Ilma Nur Jannah, Darshini Krishna and New Hui Fen will represent the girls' team.
The eight bowlers between 15 to 17 years of age have made the final cut after an evaluation based on a list of selection criteria including their individual performance and mental perseverance, as well as their ability to be a team player. It is apparent that the SBF has placed great emphasis on team work.
The team event is one of the four bowling events at the inaugural Asian Youth Games. The singles will begin on July 1, followed by the doubles on July 2. The team events will be held on July 3 and 4 over two blocks of three games each.
The top 16 boys and top 16 girls at the end of three events (18 games) will then make the cut for the round-robin Masters finals over two days on July 5 and 6.
“The camp definitely brought us closer,” said the amiable Anthea Soh for the girls' team. "We got to know each other more during the camp and definitely the training was helpful for us.”
“We cheer for each other, make fun of each other and we crack jokes,” the boys echoed in unison.
“But we are very different!" confessed 17-year-old Justin Lim.
Justin, Basil and Christopher sang the same tune, saying, “Brandon is the joker of the team!”
Brandon, who is the youngest of the four boys, quickly defended himself, “I believe that each team member has a unique way of contributing to the team. And most people love jokes, so I'm making use of my forte to contribute to the team.”
On a more serious note, the boys' team went on to describe the unique role that each member plays.
“Basil is ´Power'! Because he is the first player and always gets us off to a good start,” said the good-humoured Justin. “Christopher is also another ´joker' but Brandon is the ´joke'!”
“Justin is the anchor because he is the anchor bowler and he finishes well for us,” concluded Basil for the team.
With the exception of Basil, who had started the sport at a tender age of 4 through his parents' introduction, the other three boys only got acquainted with the sport much later and rather accidentally.
Brandon revealed, “I saw my uncle bowl when I was 10, he was really good at it and so I had a dream to be as good as him. He was my first coach.”
Christopher, the oldest of the four boys, shared, “I was bowling for fun one day when I was 12. And my mum saw me and said, ´Hey, you look like you can be a bowler!' So I just went to try out in the CCA in my primary school, ACS.”
“I think I was 9,” Justin recounted, “and it was when my family was at a chalet and they brought me to bowl, then after that I started to love bowling.”
“There is a lot of dedication from our parents,” Justin continued. “They supply the money and fetch us around.”
The bowlers' coach Francis Yeo seconded that, he said, “Our challenge was that many of them are doing their O Levels and we had to leave it to the parents to manage their time. I think they have been managing quite well, arranging their tuitions and everything around the training.”
Justin, who is the only member of the team studying at Raffles Junior College, admitted that it has been quite an ordeal balancing school work and training. He shared, “Over the past few months, we trained almost every night. It was tiring because school ends late and then training will end late as well.”
“But the coaches are very caring,” Justin remarked. “They spend a lot of time with us and very supportive of us. They always give their 100% during trainings and try their best to make us better each time in every way, mental, practical. Our games have surely improved.”
Coach Francis also revealed that there is “a strict code of conduct” for the bowlers. “They have to be very disciplined. Warning letters (will be issued) if they come late for training, and for repeated offence, they may be suspended for training, even indefinite suspension.”
The AYG bowlers have started training at the official venue at the Orchid Country Club since last year but coach Francis was quick to point out that home ground advantage doesn't always help.
“Yes and No - If they are so used to the environment, they may not be able to accept when there are changes,” Francis said. “If everything falls into place, that would be good but if things don't fall into place, they may think, ´But I've been doing this over the year!' They may struggle to accept changes.”
“We are used to the pressure to deliver (medals) already,” Francis said with a laugh. “We always go out there well-prepared. But if we are well-prepared and go out there and still can't win, then what can we do?”
Coach Francis is, however, confident that his bowlers will do well at the Games.
“They will do well. I think we should focus on the process of getting the team ready for the Championship. The preparation of the bowling team has always been the key to the sport’s success especially in the region,” said Francis.
The boys, despite their youthfulness, own a mature perspective towards the expectations they shoulder.
Basil, who has bowled a perfect score twice in competitions, said: “I definitely hope to repeat that here, it will be a good boost to me and my team.”
“But the team is not really stressed because I think it's about giving our best,” Basil continued. “If the preparations are right and you've given everything you've got and you don't win the gold, I don't think you can blame yourself for that.”
Like the boys, the girls opted to take a pragmatic view.
Tanjong Katong Girls' School 16-year-old Darshini Krishna, who will be taking her O Levels this year, said for her team, "I think we should relish the present and not always be thinking about how far we will go.”
Bowling may be one of Singapore's crown jewels at many of the multi-sport events, but at the 1st Asian Youth Games, even the SBF believes that winning is all.
SBF President Jessie Phua said, "We don't promise how many gold, silver or bronze (medals) but what we do promise is 100% commitment. To win is not within our control. The coaches have left no stones unturned in the preparations for the AYG.”
“And if we go according to our schedule,” she paused for a moment before continuing, “then these faces, please remember them, because they are going to be world champions soon.”
The girls’ team from left to right – Ilma Nur Jannah, Darshini Krishna, New Hui Fen and Anthea Soh. (Photo © Marvin Lowe/Red Sports)
The boys team from left to right – Christopher Hwang, Justin Lim, ‘joker’ Brandon Lee and Basil Low. (Photo © Marvin Lowe/Red Sports)
Team manager Mervyn Foo (far left) with the team of coaches. Coach Francis Yeo (second from left) is confident that his bowlers will do very well at the Asian Youth Games. (Photo © Marvin Lowe/Red Sports)