The Hong Kong team achieved the best-ever result at the World Singles Champion of Champions, with Stanley Lai winning silver at the men’s event and Mercredi Yeung finishing fifth in the women’s competition.
The event, which was held in Paphos, Cyprus, from Oct 20 to 28, involved 52 women’s and men’s singles champions from 30 countries.
In the men’s section, the 26 champions were split into two sections. The top qualifiers in each section went straight through to the Semi-finals, while the second and third placed players in each section went into a pool to play off for the other two Semi-final spots.
Lai started the competition well with three wins in a row against the top favourites in the competition, including New Zealander Peter Hodson and Mark Kelsey from Scotland. In the fourth game, he lost his concentration a bit and was defeated by Singaporean Christian Huang. Lai then beat South African Bruce Makkink before losing to former world champion Welsh Jason Greenslade. In the last five games, he won four and only lost to Fiji to finish third in the group, behind Hodson and Kelsey.
In the play-off, Lai defeated Keith Jones from Spain 9-5, 10-4 in a tightly contested game. He beat Hodson again in the Semi-finals to face World No. 29, Malaysian Mohamad Hizlee in the Final.
Hizlee started the Final with two touchers in a row and from then on it was a catching game for Lai. The first set went to Hizlee 13-6 and Lai put everything into the second to try to get back into the game, but it was not enough to overturn the deficit. He lost 7-5 in the second set to settle for silver.
Lai is particularly happy about the result, which is the best for a Hong Kong bowler in the CoC so far.
“I think I performed well throughout. I was consistent for most of the games and minimising my errors is the key to get through all the hurdles,” said Lai.
The green situation also helped.
“Surprisingly, the green is just like the one at Victoria Park, which I have been playing for years. At some point, I even felt like playing at my home green. Once you don’t need to pay attention to adapting to the green, you can focus more on your own game,” he said.
He admitted that he lost to a stronger opponent in the Final.
“He [Hizlee] is more consistent and stable than me,” said Lai. “That makes a difference, especially when you are in the Final of a major tournament.”
Now Lai will focus on the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic this weekend where he will meet the reigning Bowler of the Year and National Knockout Singles champion, Raymond Ho, in the first round.
In the women’s section, Mercredi Yeung started miserably as she lost the first four games in a row. She then picked herself up to win the remaining eight games and qualify for the play-off. Unfortunately, she lost in the tie-break against Carmen Spiteri from Malta and finished fifth.
In the Final, New Zealander Sandra Keith beat Jane Rigby from Zimbabwe to win the title.
Claudius Lam is an Officer with the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association.