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More lawn bowls venues on the cards as S'pore targets medals

For years, Singapore’s para-athletes have had to share the only lawn bowls facility in the country with their able-bodied counterparts, private clubs and recreational players.

Located near the Kallang Squash Centre, the outdoor facility is usually teeming with people, which can make it difficult for the para-athletes to move around. But by 2026, they will be hoping for the situation to improve.

At its 20th anniversary dinner on April 20 at the Singapore Recreation Club, the Lawn Bowls Association for the Disabled Singapore (LBADS) announced plans to construct four new lawn bowls venues, though the locations have yet to be confirmed.

Para bowler Khirmern Mohamad, who won a bronze medal at the 2023 Asian Para Games, welcomed the move. He told The Straits Times: “It will be much easier for the LBADS community to get around by themselves. Because the one we currently have is shared with everybody.

“Sometimes the wheelchair-bound players feel unease because they worry about making things fall. These new facilities is a great way to motivate them to keep coming for training without worrying.”

National lawn bowls para-athlete Faridah Salleh is hoping that the facilities will also be built indoors, as the national team players – who train four times a week – have had to cancel their sessions due to inclement weather.

The 67-year-old said: “If it’s raining we have to go inside and wait for the rain to stop and if there’s thunder or lightning we are not allowed to play. We hope they will consider to build covered greens.”

LBADS and its counterpart for able-bodied athletes Bowls Singapore are also aiming to push for the inclusion of lawn bowls at the 2029 SEA Games and Asean Para Games in Singapore. The sport last featured at the SEA Games in 2019 and has never been held at the Asean Para Games.

They are engaging with the relevant stakeholders, including the Games’ organising committees, to have lawn bowls included in both events in five years’ time.

Singapore’s lawn bowlers have enjoyed success at the SEA and Asian Para Games, winning a total of two golds, four silvers, seven bronzes at the SEA Games and a silver and bronze in the latter event.

Aside from training facility woes, the athletes have had to overcome other challenges. Khirmen, who recently quit his job as a customer manager for a car rental company, had to take unpaid leave to compete at the 2023 Asian Para Games. As a result, he did not receive his annual wage supplement for the year.

LBADS president James Chia said: “We envisage that we will need to push ourselves to serve our community a lot more over the next 20 years and beyond. It is our duty, and we are committed to providing a lot more opportunities for the community of lawn bowlers.

“The Asian Para Games has shown us that we can excel at the elite level, and our athletes will need more support along the way. Our mission is to bring more athletes into the fray, give them the support they need, and rally the community behind them.”

As the association celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2024, it is also looking to grow the sport at the community level and aims to install an indoor short mat for lawn bowling at more community centres.

Faridah added: “This game is not only for the disabled or elderly. When I went to other Games, people told me that lawn bowling was part of their extra-curricular activities. Hopefully one day it will be introduced to all the schools in Singapore.”

athleticsSINGAPORE ATHLETESParalympicsSEA GAMES 2029