PETALING JAYA: The prize money has been increased; there is a higher number of participating countries; and more world-class bowlers have confirmed their entries.
And this years Malaysian Open, which will be played at the Pyramid Mega Lanes from March 12-25, is set to be one of the most prestigious and competitive events in Asia.
Yesterday, the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) announced the star-studded cast for the 28th edition of the annual championships.
The mens field includes reigning AMF World Cup champion Kai Virtanen of Finland and World Championships gold medallist (trios) Dino Castillo of the United States.
Among the others who will feature in the Open are Teemo Raitikanen of Finland, who has scored 38 perfect games in his career; World Championships gold medallist (team) Martin Blixt of Sweden; former World Cup champion Ahmed Shaheen of Qatar; 2003 World Cup champion C.J. Suarez of the Philippines; 2002 Busan Asian Games four-gold medal winner Remy Ong of Singapore; and the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) Grand Finals champion Wu Siu Hong of Hong Kong.
Defending champions Daniel Lim and Shalin Zulkifli will not be overawed in the company of a much stronger field.
The duo, who created a first for Malaysia in the championships by bagging the mens and womens titles, will be out emerge as the champions again.
Said Daniel: The field is very strong. American bowler Dino will be one of the strong contenders for the title.
I have made a few changes to my equipment and am getting adjusted to them. My aim is to make the cut for the top six. I will give my best to defend the title.
The 27-year-old Shalin, who beat the men to win the H.H. Emir Cup recently, will have the company of Diandra Asbaty of the United States, Englands Zara Clover and the Philippines Liza Del Rosario, who were all the gold medal winners in the 2003 World Championships.
Shalin said that it would be one of the toughest tournaments for her to win.
We will be back from the Kuwait Open a few days before the cut off for the Masters Finals. Like the foreign bowlers, we will not have any advantage this time. There is a chance for me to win and I will go all out to defend the title, she said.
The MTBC deputy president, Badruddin Ahmad, said that the prize money had been increased from RM95,000 to RM165,000.
The mens champion will get RM20,000 and the womens winner will receive RM10,000.
We have a total of 20 countries confirmed for the tournament, which is five more than last year, he said.
The increase in the number of participating countries and world class bowlers make the Malaysian Open a good platform for bowlers to gauge their standards.
There will also be awards for perfect games. Canon digital cameras will be given to the first two bowlers who strike aces in the Open and youth divisions.
The bowlers with the high-game daily from March 16-23 will also get a digital camera each.
The prize for the first perfect game in the Masters Finals is RM50,000.
Yesterday, the MTBC received mock cheques from their sponsors for the championships.
Their backers include Sri Jentayu Sdn Bhd, Canon Marketing (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, Sunway Lagoon Resort, Malaysia Airlines, Nestle (Milo) Products, Antioni Sdn Bhd and Pyramid Mega Lanes.