APG2018: Lawn bowler Faridah plays the long game
10 October 2018
The playing surface for lawn bowls is called the green. But at the 3rd Asian Games in Jakarta, it might as well be referred to as the blue.
That’s because the competition is being held at Hockey Field 2 at the Gelora Bung Karno, on the blue artificial surface that’s proving to be quite a challenge for overseas competitors at the Games.
The playing surface for lawn bowls at the Gelora Bung Karno is blue instead of green. Photo: Sport Singapore
That became apparent for Team Singapore bowler Faridah Salleh last Sunday (7 Oct) in her first match against Jang Sun-bun from South Korea when she quickly found out the green conditions were drastically different from what she was used to at her home training facility.
“This green is new to me and furthermore it’s on a hockey pitch and it’s so much heavier than our greens in Kallang,” said 61-year-old Faridah.
“Here, we needed not just greater focus while playing, you really needed to study the green and have the courage to take a heavier swing just to reach the jack.”
Trailling Jang 9-3 after seven ends, Faridah mounted her comeback and managed to snatch a 15-15 draw when the two-hour time limit ran out.
Over the next three days of competition, Faridah would lose three matches – 2-21 to eventual gold medallist Mella Windasari, 14-16 to Retnowati Yugia Sibarani, both from the host country, and 12-18 to Malaysia’s Rattna’aizah Mohd Idris.
Her lone win in the competition came against Hong Kong’s Wong Sum Tsz, whom she beat 21-4, and Faridah will finish in 4th place eventually.
Faridah Salleh lines up another bowl in the challenging conditions in Jakarta. Photo: Sport Singapore
Outdoor temperatures in the mid to high 30 degrees Celsius gave little respite to the bowlers, with the heat radiating off the surface while the sun beat down relentlessly.
“This are possibly the most difficult conditions I’ve competed in,” said Faridah, a management support officer at ITE HQ.
“But I kept visualising the blue surface as a calm ocean, and told myself there’s a nice cool sea breeze helping to cool me down. I also drank a lot of water and used a cold towel on the back of my neck, and that helped me stay focused on the game.
“On this surface, the ball wouldn’t turn at all. It really takes a great deal of strength to produce a good delivery here. So I needed to tell myself to forget how I used to do things back home, and focus, find the line, and gauge the correct strength to release the ball.”
While Faridah is busy at lawn bowls, her husband of over three decades, Bahkia Hashim, is also at these Games competing in tenpin bowling at the Jaya Ancol Bowling Centre some 17km away. The sporting couple have donned Singapore colours for many years across different sports including wheelchair racing, track and field, and even shooting.
For Faridah, lawn bowls has quickly become her favourite, having picked up the sport more than 10 years ago.
“There is such a good mix of physical and mental exercise in bowls, far more perhaps than shooting that I previously competed in,” she said. “There’s a lot more technique and strategy to this game than people realise, which is why I love it so much. And through bowls, I’ve also made a lot of friends.”
As for how long she will continue in this sport, Faridah was quick to reply: “At my last competition in Sydney, I met fellow competitors who were well into their 90s! So, I will carry on playing and competing for as long as I can.”
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