Bowling to Perfection

Mohamed Ismail Hussain wasn’t born disabled but as they were on the way home from the hospital, it was raining and a kind soul offered an umbrella to his mother. Unfortunately, it accidentally poked his left eye and he became visually-impaired. When he was a teenager, he joined bowling as part of his co-curricular activity. A lot later in life, he worked at the bowling centre at National Service Resort & Country Club (NSRCC), and picked up the sport again. Now, he trains at least three hours a day when there’s a competition coming up.

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While he was working at NSRCC, he was able to observe professional bowlers training but his greatest worry was that he would be unable to perform as he could not see the full view of the lane, nor could he see the arrows or dots on the lanes. He overcame those challenges with the help of his friends, who were bowlers. They encouraged him and told him that he just needed space to bowl, instead of perfect eyesight. As he was training in those early days, he was spotted by Francis Liew, his first coach, who brought him into para-sports.

The biggest challenge Ismail had to face was the fear of being judged and being laughed at. He always felt self-conscious as he couldn’t see the pins individually and always felt that he would not be able to hit the pins, even before he throws the ball. It took him years to overcome that fear. His first training session was very encouraging as Ismail was now surrounded by other para-athletes who were doing the same thing, some of whom needed more help but persevered and pushed through, which made him think that is was possible for him too.

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Having won quite a number of medals across regional competitions through the years, Ismail reminisces about a few of the most memorable ones. He remembers his first competition, which was the Asian Para Games in China. As it was his first major competition, he didn’t expect to win, however, he managed to get a medal and it was a very proud and unexpected moment for him. During the 2011 Sea Games, he won two gold medals and got to stand on the podium for the first time. As the National Anthem started playing, he was overcome by emotion and tears started to roll down his face. Finally, during the Incheon Games in 2014, he felt the pressure of securing a medal and the only way to achieve it was to secure strikes from frames 7 to 10. His then coach, Sam, kept him focused by asking him to do relaxation exercises. He was very grateful to Sam for keeping him calm during a very nerve-wrecking game.

Being a full time athlete, Ismail is motivated by the sound of the ball hitting the pins. He has always loved the sound. As a result, he always wants to acquire new skills and learn new things to make him a better bowler. Bowling has taught him many things like having self-discipline, especially through the scholarships, and to not take things for granted. He treasures everything that he has.

His biggest support in life, so far, have been his wife and kid. He has also had a lot of support from coaches and friends for sports. However, he would like to see more Singaporeans showing support by attending the events and cheering for the para-athletes. They need a lot of support through public awareness and involvement, and even sponsorships, so they can maintain their equipment.

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Personally, Ismail feels that as a visually-impaired person in bowling, his greatest competitor is himself and that only makes him a better bowler. He always encourages his visually-impaired friends to pick it up as it is a sport that they can play now whether they are B1, B2 or B3.

Do come on  down to show Ismail and the other Team Singapore athletes your support this December!

Interview and Pictures by : Dis.Is.Able

Written by: A kind soul

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