It’s back to the alley amid more tourneys postponed

PETALING JAYA: All 35 national bowlers will resume training today albeit with mixed feelings.

Their return to the Sunway Mega Lanes since Jan 13 will be greeted with unwelcome news that three more tournaments have been postponed, notably the Asian Championships (June 3-13) in Hong Kong have been shelved to next year.

The decision was made during the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) general assembly on Feb 15.

ABF also decided against staging the Asian Youth Championships (Under-21) and Asian Junior Championships (Under-18). Both were supposed to take place in June and July respectively.

The news will come as a major blow for the bowlers as they are now set to go 18 months without any competitions.

Having wiped off most events in last year’s schedule, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc with many tournaments lined up for the first half of the year already postponed.

This includes the Asian Indoor and Martial Art Games in Thailand, World Junior Championships (Under-18) and World Youth Championships (Under-21) in Sweden.

For the elite squad, the fourth postponement of the 26th edition of the Asian Championships means they will get to hold on to their overall crown a little longer.

Malaysia emerged overall champions for the first time in the tournament’s history in Kuwait in October 2019.

Recently retired Shalin Zulkifli and Esther Cheah led the team to an impressive haul of six golds, one silver and four bronzes.

The earliest tournament for Rafiq Ismail and teammates to make a comeback now is at the Thailand Open from Aug 15-27.

The Vietnam SEA Games in December will be the only major assignment left for the team.

“It’s tough indeed as we’re hit by further postponements, but we just have to hang in there, ” said Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress secretary general Maradona Chok.

“It affects not just us, but everyone else. We can only do what’s within our control and in this case, the focus is now on getting our bowlers back to form after the long breaks.

“The stop-start training sessions since the first MCO last March is not ideal for the team.

“It’s also difficult to make any preparation for a major event under these circumstances. Hopefully things would get better with vaccination taking place worldwide.”

All 35 keglers including 16 from the national youth squad – broke camp on Jan 13 after the MCO was imposed.

They were able to train again following the reopening of sport and recreational sectors last week where bowling centres were among the facilities receiving the green light to resume operation.

Maradona said the keglers will train in two different groups for now as 19 bowlers are living outside the National Sports Council (NSC) bubble.

“Only those at the NSC hostels will train under the quaratine-based approach.

“To avoid close contact, those home- based will train after them, ” explained Maradona.

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