by Nicolette Mok
Ten-pin bowler Thomas Yong proves that mental strength is the all-important key to success.
Thomas Yong is proof that you don’t need all five senses to live life to the fullest.
In fact, the ten-pin bowler, who lost his sight to an accident while working at MINDEF nearly four decades ago, has been living the dream for a very long time now.
Currently 61 years old, perfectly content, and the proud owner of multiple medals, it appears that the secret behind Thomas’ success is a highly robust mental vision that equips him with all that he needs to succeed both in the bowling alley and out of it.
Having picked up the sport in 2002, the “outgoing guy” – as he described himself – offered a brief explanation on what it was like to bowl without sight: “Initially, it was a struggle but, over time, I learnt to walk straight and cope with the idea of staying straight all the way until I released the ball. After acquiring the basic skills of bowling with the assistance of a guide rail and a few months of training, I got quite settled with this method.”
Thomas went on to earn a bronze medal at the 1st Asian Para Games in 2010, as well as a gold and silver medal at the 6th ASEAN Para Games. His showing on the international stage was sufficient to earn him a spot to train full-time under Sport Singapore’s spexScholarship programme, where he will look to keep excelling, as it takes an extraordinary amount of focus to keep rolling in the strikes.
“I tell myself that there should be no difference between competition and training. Every day, I throw the ball in a certain way. So during a competition, as long as I throw in the exact same way, it’ll work,” he shared.
“Of course, my experience and age also helps. As I mature and go into my 60s, I have become calmer, more relaxed, and more able to manage changes in my surroundings. I see bowling as a mental sport, where you need to have a good grip of whatever goes through your mind,” he continued, adding that he planned to keep bowling for as long as he is physically able to.
It is also interesting to note that Thomas possesses another rather unconventional secret weapon. Playing chess daily, according to him, sharpens his mind and aids him in his chosen sport.
“Every morning, when I wake up, I take up a grandmaster game and run through it. This game will stay in my mind until I move on to another game. I enjoy reading chess. It helps me to stay alert, especially now that I’m not working anymore,” he professed.
Yet, despite being successful in sports and settled in life, Thomas still has one more mission: to keep inspiring others – both the able-bodied and other persons with disabilities – to pursue their dreams just as he has.
“Disabilities don’t disqualify us from sport. My involvement in para sports has been a motivation to others, especially my neighbours. Sometimes, when I move around in the neighbourhood, I’ll put on my Team Singapore shirt, and they are always very encouraged to know that, despite my disability, I have not come to a stop. Life is still just as exciting as before,” he expressed.
“I’ve already got my dream. I just hope that other persons with disabilities will also be able to go through the life that I have experienced.”
Support Thomas and his ten-pin bowling team as they live out their dreams at this year’s 8th ASEAN Para Games, from 3 to 9 December!