LAWN bowler Siti Zalina Ahmad is usually one cool cucumber. But yesterday, she rode a roller-coaster of emotions as she successfully defended her Commonwealth Games women’s singles title.
Siti delivered Malaysia’s fourth gold in style by beating 63-year-old Welsh grandmother Elizabeth Morgan in two sets at the State Lawn Bowls Centre yesterday – but not before a nail-biting finish.
Siti secured the first set with one end remaining after taking an unassailable lead of 10-5.
An all psyched-up Siti then raced to an 8-2 lead in the second set. Victory was in her grasp then and the small group of Malaysians were celebrating. With just one end to go, Siti was jumping for joy, thinking she had already won.
But Morgan, competing in her fourth Commonwealth Games, recovered superbly to roll back three points in the eighth end.
That shook the Malaysian. A tense Siti, however, settled the contest for the gold when she clinched another point for a 9-5 victory. This time, the Malaysian broke down in tears as she hugged her teammates and supporters.
The 26-year-old is only the second Malaysian, and the first Malaysian woman, to win two consecutive gold medals in the Commonwealth Games after having won the event four years ago in Manchester.
Shuttler Rashid Sidek won the men’s singles title in Auckland in 1990 and retained it in Victoria four years later.
The Perak-born policewoman was again overcome by emotion when asked to describe what her feat meant to her.
“This success holds more meaning to me. I came here as the defending champion and it has not been easy because the pressure was even greater,” she said through her tears.
“My opponent (in the final) was also more experienced than me when it comes to playing in big tournaments.
“But I was always confident I could pull through if I put 100% concentration,” said Siti, who also won a bronze as part of the women’s fours team in the Commonwealth Games in 1998.
The gold did not come on a platter. Siti only qualified second from her group after she succumbed to an upset 1-2 defeat by Zelda Humphreys of Malawi on Tuesday.
She said the quarter-final match on Thursday against Guernsey’s Alison Jayne Merrien (where she won 2-1) was her toughest hurdle.
“I had to beat her because this was the knockout stage. I really felt the pressure at that point.”
Siti also wanted to share it with her closest family member.
“To my mama,” she said when asked if she was dedicating the success to anyone.
“There’s no need to mention her name. She will know,” she said.