Saturday September 8, 2012
Bowling: Be brave and never give up, Wendy tells youngsters
By RAJES PAUL
IN 1997, 19-year-old Wendy Chai had to choose between bowling and furthering her studies in Taiwan after completing high school.
She chose bowling and now, 15 years later, she believes she had made the right choice.
In fact, her love for the game, selfless and tireless contribution to the nation and ability to withstand all kinds of adversities in pursuit of glory have won her great admiration among her peers and others in the bowling fraternity.
Every time she suffers an injury, she comes out of it stronger. Even the death of her father in 2007 served to strengthen her resolve to continue to excel.
A month ago, the 34-year-old Wendy’s 15-year “amazing bowling career” finally came to an end.
But she had this message for all the youngsters: “Do not give in easily to ‘painful’ moments. Hard times make one stronger.”
She is the second longest serving woman bowler in the national team. Shalin Zulkifli is still going strong after 22 years!
“There were a lot of difficult times ... injuries were the biggest culprit. But I learned that you must help yourself. You have to be brave to bear the challenges and not give up,” said Wendy, who has gone through three surgeries.
In 1999, she underwent a knee injury and was floored by appendicitis. She came back stronger and helped the team win the gold medal at the 2003 World Championships on home ground.
In September 2007, she was in an immaculate form as she steered the team to another gold medal at the World Championships in Mexico, except this time she went a step better to nail a bronze in the singles event as well.
This was despite finding out on the same day that her father had been diagnosed with cancer.
She then took a break to care for her father, who passed away in November that year.
She then suffered a drastic weight loss – about 20kg. Being the fighter that she is, Wendy bounced back a couple of months later to become the first Malaysian to win the 2008 World Ranking Masters in Jakarta and only the second Malaysian bowler after Esther Cheah to win an individual world title.
In 2009, she underwent another knee surgery. She struggled for two years and was left out of major tournaments.
True to her never-say-die attitude, she bounced back to win the third Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) Tournament of Champions in Kuwait in January.
“The desire to excel helped me to overcome the physical pain ... the enthusiasm to win overshadowed whatever pain I had within me,” she said.
“There have been a lot of sacrifices but there are no regrets.
“I have learned a lot over the years. I have grown and all the experiences have opened my eyes to seeing things in perspective.
“My love for bowling and the satisfaction of winning kept me going for the last 15 years,” added Wendy, who was also instrumental in the team’s success in previous SEA Games, Asian Games and Asian Championships.
Wendy said that many people have contributed to her success, none more so than her first coach Eddie Choong of Selangor.
She also spoke highly of Shalin, whom she referred to as her role model and inspiration together with Lisa Kwan, Lydia Kwah, Karen Lian, Sarah Yap and Sharon Low.
“The women’s team then was strong and united. I was a junior then. I remember our former coach Sid Allen’s statement that ‘our women are known worldwide for their oneness and that is the key to their success’,” she said.
“Most of them were with me in the team that won the World Tenpin Team Cup (2002). Everyone was amazing and bowled with good strategy.”
Wendy also highlighted the presence of the late Peter Yap, the team’s lovable manager then: “My days under him was short but he left a lasting impression. He loved to eat! He was strict and wanted everything to be perfect and treated all of us like his own children,” she said.
“He encouraged us to take bowling seriously. Off the alley, he was friendly and always walked around with a huge smile on his face. We need more passionate officials like him.”
Asked about the current group of bowlers, including the many newfaces in the team, she said: “The bowlers coming through now are smart.
“They know what to do and what they want. Some are talented and gifted. They have plenty of support from the government. All they need to do is train hard and give their best.”
Wendy, who would have immersed herself in either accounting and finance or business and marketing if she had furthered her studies, is now contented being a travel agent.
“I have a good job, a great employer and wonderful colleagues. I still get a chance to travel around the world, only this time without having to carry and drag the bowling balls around,” she quipped.