HAVING savored personal glory in winning the men’s singles event three days ago, bowler Merwin Tan was more than happy to share the golden spotlight with his national teammates in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games bowling tournament Thursday.
Behind a sizzling six-game series average of 235.17, Tan paced the Filipino keglers with a 1411 tally to power them to the men’s team gold event with plenty to spare at the underground Royal City Mall bowling center in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Together with Patrick Nuqui, Christian Dychangco and Ivan Malig, the nationals wound up with a combined top score of 5275, 113 pins ahead of silver medalist Malaysia (5162) while Singapore (4963) settled for the bronze medal at the close of the bowling competitions.
They also shattered a 21-year-old barren run in the event since the quintet of Chester King, Botchok Rey, Chester King, CJ Suarez, Carlo Mansilungan and Biboy Rivera did it in the team-of-five at the 2001 Malaysia SEA Games.
Asked which between the individual or team gold he preferred, Tan replied without hesitation: “Mas gusto ko ’yong team kasi lahat kami uuwi ng medalya. (I prefer the team gold because all of us will return home with a medal).”
Now the national men’s team coach, Rivera explained that his charges had been looking forward to the team event, “because bowlers consider the team event the most prestigious. Mas mahirap pong panalunin. Kailangan lahat ng players mag-sabay sabay, mag-unite at magkaroon ng teamwork. (The event is hard to win because all the players need to be in synch, unite and have teamwork).
“Because there will be times when not all players will have good games. Someone has to fill the slack for those who are struggling. This is where you will see the gelling, camaraderie and unity of the team.”
Tan’s teammates were ecstatic to be part of history.
“I am very happy for the opportunity to compete here and thankful that we got the results we wanted here,” said Malig, 24, of his memorable SEA Games debut.
“Winning my first SEA Games feels great but I am still processing this gold that we won. I am still processing it. We were looking forward to this event the entire week,” added Nuqui, who took a silver medal in the team event in the 2019 Philippine edition.
The oldest member of the squad at 33, Dychangco cherished the accomplishment as a fellow SEA Games rookie after being out of the national team since his stint as a junior bowler in the 2006 world youth championships.
“I stayed out of bowling action to finish my studies and focus on the family business. I’m glad I’m back and very happy to represent the country again,” he revealed.
Rivera said that Tan benefited from a nearly three-week stint they had in March on the US pro tour in Milwaukee, where the 20-year-old southpaw saw action in three competitions.
“We were there from March 1 to 18, and it was through an invitation of the tour since you just cannot compete as an amateur without it. Merwin became motivated and inspired to raise his level of play,” Rivera said.
“He (Tan) realized that while he was the No. 1 bowler in the country, he was able to measure and gauge his skill level against the pros and where he could still improve.”
Tan acknowledged that his US pro tour stint was a good learning experience, “because I learned some tips watching the pros in improving my game, especially in changing the ball fast to adjust (to the lane conditions). I was able to apply them in the SEA Games.
“Bowling continues to upgrade and is improving a lot. Our local bowlers should learn to adapt. I was able to improve 30 on percent of my game because of the experience.”
Evidently overjoyed by the success was Philippine Bowling Federation secretary-general Bong Coo, a legend in the sport, who said that the SEA Games had exceeded all of their expectations.
The Filipino bowlers will bring home two gold medals and a silver, courtesy of Alexis Sy in the women’s singles, a huge improvement over the one silver and one bronze medals they garnered in the Philippine Games in 2019.
“Our bowlers’ desire to give glory to God and make the country proud was greater than their fear of not making it or losing. We prayed the rosary daily (during the competition),” Coo said. “I knew we were short on training, but if God is for us, who can be against us?
“Nagdasal lang kami nang nagdasal (We just prayed and prayed).”