IM this article to a friend!

December 31, 2004

S'pore bowling team for Deaflympics

From: Electric New Paper, Singapore - Dec 31, 2004

By Sim Chi Yin

HE can't hear the pins crash.

But, unlike most bowlers, he detects how the floor trembles differently when he has bowled well.

He, of course, can see if he's had a strike. But unlike most people, Mr Jeffrey Ong (above, far right) says he can feel it in his legs.

And when the 30-year-old spins round to punch the air, or give his team-mates a high five, he has no trouble detecting the claps and hearty slaps of congratulation.

He hopes there will be a lot of that in Melbourne, Australia, next month, when he leads Singapore's team of six hearing-impaired bowlers to the Deaflympics.

It's the first time Singapore is sending a bowling team to the Games, the most prestigious meet for the world's deaf athletes.

The 20th Deaflympic Summer Games - from Jan 6 to 16 - will see more than 3,500 athletes from 80 countries competing in swimming, athletics, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball and other sports.

Singapore's contingent of 11, which also includes a coach, two officials, a physiotherapist and a chef de mission, will leave on Monday. Chef de mission Dennis Tan, 38, told The New Paper: 'Our target is to finish in the top eight, either as individuals or as a team.'

Mr Tan, who is also captain of the Sports and Recreation Committee of the Deaf, added: 'We are sending only the bowling team this time because we feel they are good enough to win.'

In the 2001 Deaflympics, Singapore competed in swimming and track and field events.

They did not make it to the finals but improved their personal bests, said Mr Tan, through an interpreter.

When Mr Ong takes to the lanes, his nifty footwork is striking.

His right leg is flung high and his body momentarily contorts as he stoops to release the ball.

No-one else in the team is quite as flamboyant.

But ask him if he has a special technique, and he answers, with a shy smile, 'No, don't have.'

The store assistant started bowling for fun eight years ago. Then he got to represent the nation in the Asia Pacific Games for the Deaf in Taipei in 2000.

He came in second in the National Deaf Sports Tournament organised by the Malaysia Sports Federation for the Deaf in 2001.

The Singapore team has been training three to four times a week at the Katong Shopping Centre bowling alley since October, said Mr Ong. 'I'm sure I can be in the top ten,' he added. His teammate and fellow bowler Mohammad Tahir Mohammad Zain, 33, is somewhat less confident but equally excited.

The flight to Melbourne will be the dental technician's first. As for the tournament, he quipped: 'Now must be very serious, cannot just play, play already.'

Copyright © 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.