Sports

Only 17, Ray Han aiming to bowl over rivals at SEA Games

Only 17, Ray Han aiming to bowl over rivals at SEA Games
Cheah Ray Han has trained hard since suffering a thumb injury and will compete in six events at the SEA Games. Photo: Esther Leong
Published: 4:00 AM, August 11, 2017
Updated: 12:38 PM, August 18, 2017

Team Singapore heads to the 29th SEA Games later this month with a roster of established athletes, as well as several youngsters who will be looking to make a name for themselves in Kuala Lumpur. TODAY is counting down to the event by profiling some of our stars of the future. Here, we focus on teenage bowler Cheah Ray Han.

SINGAPORE — Last November, national bowler Cheah Ray Han was feeling on top of the world. The teenager had every reason to, having written himself into the record books twice that month.

His first achievement came when he won the national bowling championship as its youngest men’s winner, before following it up by claiming the national youth championship title.

His victories on the lanes saw him become the first-ever local bowler to hold both titles concurrently.

The 17-year-old’s achievements also saw him named the Singapore Bowling Federation’s (SBF) Youth Bowler of the Year (2016) during the association’s annual awards night in February.

But the young athlete found himself hitting a career low soon after, as he struggled to cope with a thumb injury and subsequent poor form.

He failed to make an impact at the Singapore Open in June, finishing 29th out of 36 bowlers in the men’s masters final.

“I was forced to skip many training sessions due to my school commitments and my injuries, so when I went into the Singapore Open, my confidence was at an all-time low, and it showed in my results,” the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student told TODAY.

But Ray Han refused to wallow in self-pity, as he worked with his coaches to make physical adjustments to his game and footwork.

As he prepares for his debut at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur later this month, the teenager is confident that his game is back on track as the men’s team guns for a first team gold at the regional event since 1995.

While he will have a busy schedule at Petaling Jaya’s Sunway Pyramid as he is pencilled in for six events — the men’s singles, doubles, trios, masters, team of five and mixed doubles — Ray Han is looking forward to the challenge in the home venue of their fiercest rivals in the region.

He added: “My goal is to win the team event. Nothing feels better when you have a team up on the podium and bringing glory to the nation together. In the individual events, I’m aiming to win a couple of medals as well.”

He may be one of Singapore bowling’s brightest medal prospects, but Ray Han’s journey into competitive bowling began by chance when he was just 10.

Ray Han was bowling with his family at Orchid Country club when he caught the eye of the parents of a youth bowler, who were looking for a fourth and final member to join their child’s primary school bowling league team.

“Initially, I never intended to pursue competitive bowling,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t have any proper training back then, so I would just try to spin the ball using force instead of technique.”

He joined Strike Academy’s Centre of Excellence programme after deciding to take the sport more seriously. In 2015, he joined the national development squad, before working his way up to the senior team.

While the 17-year-old will be one of the youngest bowlers at the SEA Games, national senior assistant coach Jason Yeong-Nathan believes he is capable of springing a few surprises in Kuala Lumpur.

“Being the youngest national champion, Ray Han has already proven that age is just a number,” Yeong-Nathan told TODAY. “If you have the right mindset, you will be able to compete with the best.

“He has taken part in a few regional competitions and proven that he has what it takes to compete against his peers in South-east Asia.

“There is no doubt that he is a very talented bowler who learns things quickly. He also has a lot of ball sense when he bowls, and is very hardworking, disciplined and passionate. With all these qualities, I believe he will go very far (in the sport) if he has the chance to continue doing what he loves.”

The ambitious young bowler, however, has set his sights even further, as his goal is to become world champion in the future.

“It’s not easy to succeed in this sport, but I love it,” said Ray Han.

“I’ve known that since the first time I stepped into a bowling alley, I’ve always loved the sound of all 10 pins going down. There’s something about it that is just so satisfying to me, even up to now.

“So that’s why I’m willing to do what it takes to go far in the sport. My goal is to be able to win a Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title over in the United States, and one day, become a world champion as well.”