Men's bowlers hoping for SEA Games ‘miracle gold’ again
Bowler Goh feels his team are better prepared than in 2017 SEA Games, when they ended a 22-year title drought
Just two years ago, the men's bowling team entered the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur as relative unknowns.
Under the radar and unheralded, the six-man squad clinched Singapore's first team gold since 1995.
It led to Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua describing it as a "miracle gold".
Thrust into the spotlight since their big break, the male keglers will be hoping of a repeat of their success amid increased attention during the Nov 30-Dec 11 Games in the Philippines.
According to the most senior member of the team, Jaris Goh, 24, the extra eyes on their progress has not made a difference to their preparations or expectations of themselves for this year's event.
One key change from the last Games is that the team-of-five event will now be a team-of-four event.
Of the quintet that won the gold at the 2017 Games, Keith Saw and Darren Ong have since enlisted for national service (NS). Goh, Basil Ng, 22, and Cheah Ray Han, 19, remain, with debutant Alex Chong, 23, completing the quartet.
Said Goh: "I think it's true that people have started to look out for the men's team nowadays, but that doesn't change anything for us.
"It has always been about focusing on what we can control - which is our processes - while the outcome is something we can't really control.
"We can't let such unnecessary pressure or extra focus on us affect us."
The team's newcomer, Chong, was serving his NS in the army in 2017 and admitted to not watching his teammates' jubilant moment two years ago.
But, while this is Chong's SEA Games debut, he has participated in the Asian Games. He, Goh and Ong won the trios bronze at last year's Asian Games in Indonesia, becoming Singapore's first male bowlers to win an Asiad medal since 2010.
He believes that the experience from being at major competitions will put them in good stead.
Said Chong: "Every competition brings different competitors, different conditions and different feelings.
"What we can take away always is the experience... The expectation (to be gold medallists) can be there, but there is no guarantee that we will do it. We just have to do our best on the day."
Goh, however, feels that his side may just well be more prepared. The final competition for SEA Games-bound bowlers, the 50th Singapore Nationals, is at SingaporeBowling @ Rifle Range tomorrow.
Goh said: "Unlike the last Games, the peaking programme comes during the nationals, so we get to be in competition mode...
"It gives us a real competitive feel rather than just facing each other as we would do during training."
Coach Helmi Chew, 38, agreed, urging his charges to focus on themselves and not external factors.
"Our winning formula for past competitions has always been the same. We just need to focus on what we can do...
"As for the target, it is pretty much the same, which is to do three things: Focus on what we can do, forget what we have done and don't predict what we will do."