SGDeafSport stood tall and proud on Saturday (1 Oct) at the Grand Ballroom@Parkroyal as it received the flag for the upcoming bowling segment of the 24th Summer Deaflympics 21/22.
The six-member delegation; travelling to host city Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 20 to 30 October 2022 for the Games; is made up of bowlers Adelia Naomi Yokoyama, 23, and Kimberly Quek, 22, their coaches and support staff.
“I am feeling nervous but thankful that I am able to participate in the Deaflympics despite several changes,” said Quek.
Teammate Yokoyama echoed Quek’s nerves but remains excited that they are “able to resume our Deaflympics bowling”.
“The past three years of the Covid-19 pandemic have been difficult because we weren’t able to compete. But I’m also feeling nervous to be part in the competing phase where we’re facing other elite and experienced bowlers,” said Yokoyama.
The Singapore flag was passed from President of Deaf Sports Association (Singapore) Loh Eng Meng along the row of guests before the guest-of-honour Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Mr Eric Chua handed the flag to the hands of Yokoyama and Quek.
The pair then recited the athlete’s pledge after singing the national anthem.
“We could not have been prouder to see our flag flown high at the Deaflympics. I would like to thank Adelia and Kimberly, and the team, for placing Singapore on the international sporting map!” said Mr Chua in his speech.
The Deaflympics is a multi-sport event held every four years for deaf athletes to compete at an elite level, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Considered as the longest running multi-sport event in history after the Olympics, the last edition was held in 2017 at Samsun, Turkey (now known as Türkiye), where Yokoyama and Quek bowled their way to a gold and bronze medal respectively at the Women’s Masters event, becoming Singapore’s first ever medallists at the Games.
The road to Kuala Lumpur this time round was fraught with uncertainty when the decision was made to change the bowling venue from the host city of Caxias do Sul, Brazil. It was due to the organisation’s “considerable economic impact” of the sanctions placed against Belarus and Russia.
The other sporting events of the Deaflympics 21/22 had already taken place in Brazil from 1 to 15 May 2022, where 2,349 deaf athletes from 71 countries participated.
Kuala Lumpur agreed to host the games to the pleasure of the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD). It expressed its appreciation to the Malaysian Deaf Sports Association for its “willingness and for their hard work to make the relocation for the Deaflympics 2022 in bowling be made possible”.
“My training with our coach is at least three times a week. I worked on refining my techniques and tactical gameplay. I hope to be able to remain as calm as possible, and improve the quality of every single shot that I make at the Games,” said Quek on her preparations for the Deaflympics.
Yokoyama said that she has been working on the mental side of her game as well, having competed in a recent tournament in Thailand which helped her build up her mental resilience.
“I definitely hope that I will be able to win a medal again. It will not be easy but I’ll try to remain composed,” Yokoyama added on defending her gold medal from the Deaflympics in 2017.
The two Singapore bowlers won numerous medals at the first ever ASEAN Deaf Bowling Championships in Manila, Philippines in 2019, placing them as strong medal contenders at the upcoming Games. The pair will be joined by 90 deaf athletes from 20 nations in Kuala Lumpur.
After their triumph in the Philippines, Yokoyama voiced her sentiment on the general awareness of deaf sports saying that she “wished we could have received more media coverage”.
“We trained hard. We did this for Singapore. It was not a small event! We competed against the best in ASEAN. Singaporeans should get to know more about us and our journey. We worked hard. It was a struggle juggling school, work, and training. We may be deaf, but we possess the Singapore Spirit! Our deaf bowling team’s story is a story of grit, determination, and tenacity,” the bowler said in 2019.
Sharing her thoughts on the topic today, Yokoyama said, “Slowly, we are getting support for the DSA and the deaf community but I feel there is room for improvement. I hope that after the Deaflympics, the deaf sports community will be able to get more recognition so Kimberly and I will be working hard in Kuala Lumpur.”
Giving support to the athletes were sponsors such as UOL Group Limited (UOL). UOL’s Group Chief Executive Liam Wee Sin said, “At UOL, we believe that sports can bring people and communities together. Through our support, we hope to raise awareness for inclusive sports and support the athletes’ ambitions to compete at international sporting events.”
With the first ever ASEAN Deaf Games set to take centrestage in Kuala Lumpur on 20 November, it is an exciting time for the community.
“These developments in the region and the addition of the orienteering sport at the National Deaf Games has enabled the DSA to reach new heights as the national sports association for the deaf, gaining recognition among sports organisations within the local sporting landscape, and reaching out to others who had previously been hesitant to get involved,” said Vice-President of DSA Jaffa Mohamed Salleh.