SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s top bowlers will be out to live up to their reputation as the powers of the continent when they compete in the Aviva Asian Tour Grand Slam Finals, which begin today at Cathay Bowl here today.
The competition pits the top 16 players in the standings in men’s and women’s standings of the Tour after six legs. There will be no shortage of Malaysian interest bidding to pocket the US$20,000 and US$10,000 top prize money in the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.
Malaysia have six women and four men in the fray, a testimony of Malaysia’s dominance of the sport in Asia this year. And all of them have produced rostrum finishes in major competitions this year.
The Malaysian challenge for the men’s honours will be spearheaded by second ranked qualifier Zulmazran Zulkifli, who won the Taiwan leg and was the runner-up in Malaysia.
The others are Thailand-leg winner Alex Liew, Korean-leg champion Daniel Lim and Asian Championships’ silver medallist Gerald Samuel.
Busan Asian Games Masters gold medallist Shalin Zulkifli leads the Malaysian women’s charge. Top ranked qualifier Shalin will be looking to follow up on what has been a very successful season by winning the Finals. The 24-year-old Shalin won three Open Masters title last year – in Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea.
The other Malaysians having similar title aspirations include Lai Kin Ngoh, who was beaten to the Asian Games Masters gold medal by Shalin last year, Wendy Chai and Sarah Yap. Wendy and Sarah won the doubles gold medal at the Asian Games.
Commonwealth Championships bronze medallist Choy Poh Lai and international junior all-stars champion Sharon Chai completes the cast in the women’s competition.
With a big representation this time, the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress’ (MTBC) secretary, Sidney Tung, said that Malaysia had the best chance to end a four-year title drought in the Finals.
Sarah Yap took the inaugural women’s title in 1998.
“Last year was a very good year for the national bowlers and I am confident that they will go all out to win another title,” said Sidney.
“We won five Open titles and three legs of the Asian Tour and emerged the biggest medal contributor for the Malaysian contingent in the Asian Games (two gold, one silver and one bronze).
“The women’s team also took gold in the Asian Championships in Hong Kong and the men were silver medallists.
“The women have much greater depth in strength while the men have showed great improvement. Having more bowlers in the fray increases our chances of capturing the Grand Finals’ title.”
The first two days will be played on a round-robin basis. The top eight men and eight women will advance to the knockout stage.
The women’s competition has a world-class field. Among them are Singapore’s Jennifer Tan, who won the World Ranking Masters title, and 1998 Asian Games gold medallist C. Supaporn of Thailand.
Those expected to challenge for top honours in the men’s competition are Asian Games triple gold medallist Remy Ong of Singapore, four-time World Cup champion Paeng Nepomuceno of the Philippines and former world champion Tom Hahl, a Finn who now represents Singapore.
The organisers have also given wild card entries to two Middle East bowlers – Asian Championships gold medallist Shaker Ali Hassan of the United Arab Emirates and Qatari Mubarak al-Murikhi.
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