KUALA LUMPUR: Lai Kin Ngoh, one of the most successful bowlers in the country, is calling it quits and moving to Hong Kong.
The Malaysian Open bowling championships in March will be the southpaw's swansong as a national player.
The 29-year-old Kin Ngoh has had a successful 10 years as a national bowler and her decision to leave has thrown a spanner in the works of the team's preparation for this year's major tournament - the World Championships in June in Denmark.
Kin Ngoh was a member of the women's team that won their first World Championships gold medal at the Pyramid Mega Lanes in 2003.
With Kin Ngoh out, Malaysia will have to depend on the team of Shalin Zulkifli, Sarah Yap, Wendy Chai, Choy Poh Lai, Esther Cheah and Zandra Aziela to defend the gold in Denmark.
The lanky bowler said she had made the decision with a heavy heart.
“I love bowling. It is my heart and soul. But it is time now to spend more time with my boyfriend Eric Lau (Kin Ngoh has had a long-term relationships with this former Hong Kong national bowler). I am going to stay in Hong Kong permanently.
“Probably, we will get married later,” said Kin Ngoh after a workout at the National Sports Institute (NSI) gymnasium in Bukit Jalil.
“I have always contemplated it (a move to Hong Kong) but every year some major tournaments would make me defer my decision. I have always given bowling the first priority. But I always knew I would have to make this decision one day.
“I am not getting any younger either.”
Kin Ngoh said a knee injury (after the 2003 World Championships) that nearly dashed her career in 2003 also helped make up her mind.
“I went for surgery but I was back in action last year and did well in the Indonesian leg of the ABF (Asian Bowling Federation) Tour (where she reached the semi-finals).
“But the fear of aggravating the injury has always been there and I feel I will not be giving 100% in tournaments,” she said.
Kin Ngoh said there had been plans for her to come back to Malaysia on a short-stint to be part of the team for the World Championships.
“But I realised that will not be right. It will not be fair to the others. The bowlers who are here and training for it should be given the chance,” she said.
“The last 10 years have been great for me and I have no regrets. I have won many titles and I have had many wonderful moments.
“I will truly miss representing Malaysia in official bowling tournaments. Most of all, I will miss my team mates and officials.”
“I will not give up bowling though. I will probably take part in Open tournaments in Hong Kong,” said Kin Ngoh.
Beside being part of the World Championships-winning team, Kin Ngoh has been pivotal in the Malaysian women’s success in team events at the SEA Games, Asian Championships and World Team Cup.
In Asian competitions, Kin Ngoh bagged two gold medals in the 1996 Asian Championships in South Korea.
She was the runner-up in the Brunswick Asian Champion of Champions in 1997; won the silver in the Masters of the Busan Asian Games in 2002 and several individual gold medals in the SEA Games.
She also won two bronze medals at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
And there's just one job left to be done.
Before she leaves, Kin Ngoh hopes to bid farewell in style by doing well in the national championships (Feb 2-3) and the Malaysian Open (March 14-26).
“These will be my last two tournaments before I leave for Hong Kong. Certainly, I hope to do well,” added Kin Ngoh.
Malaysians, however, will still be able to meet up with her at least once a year. She has promised to return every year for the Malaysian Open.