PETALING JAYA: Unheralded Alex Tan Yee Kian saved hosts Malaysia the blushes when he shrugged off a slow start to claim his first international podium finish at the Milo-Storm U22 All-Stars Bowling Championships.
The 18-year-old left it late to shoot 242, 234 and 242 in the seventh, eighth and ninth games for a total of 2,123 pinfalls to finish third in the boys' Graded event at the Sunway Mega Lanes here on Thursday (Dec 6).
Ryosuke Takagi of Japan was in his element to amass 2,252 pinfalls to finish with 88 pins more than second-placed Lee Do-Hyun (2,164) of South Korea, to pocket a RM12,000 jackpot.
For Alex, coming in third is best finish so far in his bowling career, having just picked up the sport three years ago.
"I feel like I have won already eventhough I finished third. This is my first podium finish in an international event," said Alex, who is studying at the Asia Pacific University (APU) in Bukit Jalil.
"I have been competing in the All-Stars since 2016, but the first two years were not great as I was still learning.
"Unlike other players my age who started bowling way earlier, I only got involved in 2015. However, it doesn't matter how early or late you start playing, as long as you can master the skills and throwing accuracy."
Finishing third saw Alex pocket RM3,000, his biggest purse so far.
"As a student, RM3,000 is big money. I don't intend to spend it and will put all into my savings," added Alex.
Alex is also the only local bowler to earn a podium finish as the girls' Graded event was dominated by foreign bowlers.
It could have been host Malaysia's worst-ever outing in the Graded competitions in 11 years had Alex failed to finish in the top three. The last time there were no local keglers on podium was in 2007.
South Korea completed a clean sweep of the girls' category with Yang Da-som claiming the title on 2,219 pinfalls, followed by Jung Hye-jin (2,122) and Son Jeong-mi (2,113).
The All-Stars Championships resumes this weekend with the Boys' and Girls' Open (Under-21) on Saturday followed by The Masters, which is an open-age contest, on Sunday (Dec 9).
The qualifying rounds for all three events will be heated competition, with players vying for a spot in the finals.
A whopping RM40,000, RM25,000 and RM18,000 awaits the winners for The Masters, Boys' Open and Girls' Open respectively.
Players from various cities in South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Thailand will complete the star-studded lineup.
The competition this weekend will also be graced by our very own world champions Rafiq Ismail, Adrian Ang and Tun Hakim Tun Hasnul Azam alongside husband and wife couple Son Yun-hee and Cho Young-seon from South Korea, the former world championships gold medallists.
Also in the fray are 35-time US PBA Tour champion, Parker Bohn III, who has bowled 110 perfect games in his career, Japan's No 1 professional bowler, Shota Kawazoe and a group of Korean professionals.
Boys: 1. Ryosuke Takagi (Jpn) 2,252; 2. Lee Do-hyun (Kor) 2,164; 3. Alex Tan Yee Kian (Mas) 2,123
Girls: 1. Yang Da-som (Kor) 2,219; 2. Jung Hye-jin (Kor) 2,122; 3. Son Jeong-mi (Kor) 2,113