Finally, an individual SEA Games gold for bowler Jazreel
Bowling's pin-up girl is finally a gold medallist after a decade of trying
For seven years, national bowler Jazreel Tan has been drawing a smiley face on the back of her hand whenever she goes for competitions.
Time and again, with every second-placed finish, she would hide her disappointment behind her sweet smile as she just cannot seem to win an individual title at a major championship.
But yesterday, after years of perseverance, the 25-year-old was finally able to release a heartfelt smile at the ninth frame of the final game in the women's Masters step-ladder final.
To whoops of delight from her parents, brother and a 200-strong boisterous Singaporean crowd at Orchid Country Club, Jazreel beat compatriot and women's singles champion Daphne Tan 516-353 (258-169, 258-184).
"Amazing," she exclaimed to The New Paper after winning her first individual SEA Games gold medal since bringing back a silver from the same event on her debut in Manila 2005.
JAZREEL WILL BEAT THE GUYS
Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua added: "Jazreel was magnificent. Put her in the men's competition and she will beat the guys on scratch."
And brilliant she was, conjuring a sensational 15 strikes in two games in a devastating display of consistency as she chalked up consecutive games of 258 pinfalls.
A beaming Jazreel said: "You can say this is the best step-ladder final of my career in terms of scores and the gold medal. It was the most calm I have bowled. I went through my pre-shot routine and made better decisions."
She didn't always feel this assured, however, as a silver medal in the women's singles, trios and team events led her to wonder if this was her fate.
But rising from the ashes of defeat, a steely Jazreel rose to the occasion and ended the bowling competition on a high.
She said: "I did think whether I would finish second again, but I decided that instead of moping over losing our team gold, I should do something different.
"It's never easy to play a teammate, and Daphne and I have grown up together since we were classmates at the Singapore Sports School.
"But how often do you get to play in a major Games at home with your family and friends cheering you on?
"It feels really sweet to win my first individual gold medal this way after all the hard work put in by everyone involved."
Following the singles, doubles, trios and team events, the top-16 bowlers from the men's and women's categories qualify for the Masters event.
Then, the bowlers with the top three scores after another 16 games progress to the step-ladder final, with the second and third-placed bowlers facing off in one game for the chance to take on the top-ranked bowler for the gold medal.
In the gold-medal match, the one with the highest combined score from two games wins.
Such was Singapore's dominance, five of their six bowlers filled the top five of the women's Masters event, with Cherie Tan placed fourth with 3,394 pinfalls and New Hui Fen (3,391) fifth. Bernice Lim was 12th with 3,279 pinfalls.
Sixth-placed Tannya Roumimper from Indonesia picked up the diplomatic bronze as the SEA Games rules prevent any country from sweeping all three medals at a single event.
Daphne was magnanimous in defeat and said: "Jazreel played really well today. My sister Cherie won the singles and Masters event at the 2011 SEA Games, so I really wanted to repeat the feat, so to miss out was disappointing.
"But I feel worse about losing the team gold to Malaysia and we are going to make sure we will get it back in two years' time."
Meanwhile, Singapore's male bowlers did not progress to the stepladder finals and hence did not medal in the men's Masters event. Keith Saw finished 13th with 3,238 pinfalls, while Javier Tan was 15th with 3,115 pinfalls.
Thailand's Yannaphon Larpapharat rode his luck en route to the men's Masters gold, defeating Malaysia's Adrian Ang 246-245 in a nail-biting encounter to earn a men's step-ladder final showdown against another Malaysian Rafiq Ismail.
In the gold-medal match, the 31-year-old Asian Games gold medallist comfortably beat men's singles champion Rafiq 414-381 (197-178, 217-203).
Overall, Singapore's bowlers ended their campaign with four golds, five silvers and one bronze, which represents their best showing since 1995.