Lawn bowls first brought “new meaning in life” and now it has brought the bonus of the ultimate international sporting success, as 10 Hong Kong bowlers proved that there is life after an organ transplant.
The Hong Kong lawn bowls squad returned from the XIX World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa with four gold, two silver and a bronze medal to help Hong Kong achieve our best-ever results at the World Transplant Games.
Lai Sui Lung, a kidney transplant recipient who started bowling in 2006, achieved the best results with two gold medals. He had previously won a bronze medal in the same competition in Gold Coast, Australia, four years ago.
In the Singles competition of the 50-59 year old division, Lai won all three games in the round-robin stage and qualified as the top player in the group. He moved on to defeat two other players before reaching the Final to play against Australia’s Bernie McNamara.
“I hurt my leg when I played against Thailand in the Semi-final and could barely walk … not to mention bowl. Fortunately our physiotherapist Cora Cheung did not give up on me and helped me to recover enough to start the game,” said Lai.
Despite the acupuncture and massage received, fatigue and pain soon got to Lai in the 10-end Final and McNamara always had the upper hand. Lai was down 3:7 with three ends to go. In the eighth end, Lai delivered the last bowl superbly to win one shot, cutting the deficit to 4:7. In the ninth end, Lai continue his consistent drawing and took a full house (four shots) to move ahead 8:7.
In the last end, McNamara held a one shot lead and it was so close to the Jack that it seemed impossible for Lai to break it up. With everyone expecting the game go into extra time, McNamara took a risky approach to try to take out Lai’s shot. His shot mistakenly moved the winning shot a little bit. After measurement, Lai’s bowl won by the tiniest margin of less than 1MM.
Lai was really impressed in the way he fought to victory.
“The losses in the earlier stage calmed me down and made me concentrate more on the game. At that stage I did not pay much attention to the score, but I just wanted to perform. Maybe this caused my opponent to get a bit nervous, and then he made the mistake, and gifted me the gold medal.”
Lai moved on to partner with Chan Yeuk Pang to progress to the Final of the pairs competition, where he met McNamara again. This time it was Lai’s turn to gain the upper hand, winning 9:5 with two ends to go. However due to failing light as the sun was setting, and upon the umpire’s suggestion, both teams agreed to abandon the game and were awarded gold medals together.
Lai is glad that he picked up lawn bowls a few years back.
“After I engaged in lawn bowls I found new meaning in life.
“It gave me a target to improve myself. Results are not really important as far as you enjoy the sport.
“Award is just a bonus.”
Hosted by the World Transplant Games Federation, the competition is open to all ages who qualify to participate. There are over 50 events to suit all capabilities including track & field events, cycling, road races, swimming, golf, tennis, table-tennis, badminton, squash, lawn bowls, volleyball, petanque and tenpin bowling.
With both summer and winter World Transplant Games events, the first summer games were held in the UK in 1978. Since 1987 the summer games have been held every two years, with Argentina to host the next ones in 2015.
Over 900 athletes from 49 countries (or territories) participated in the 19th summer games at the 2013 World Transplant Games in Durban from July 28 to Aug 4. Around 100 were juniors.
The World Transplant Federation, who oversees each event, confirmed that Hong Kong collected a total 14 gold, 12 silver and 9 bronze medals shared overall between the 20 Hong Kong representative athletes – the best-ever result at the World Transplant Games for Hong Kong. The team, organised by the Hong Kong Transplant Sports Association and the Hong Kong Society of Transplantation, finished 12th.
While the UK had the most representation (with some 250 athletes) and the US had the second-most athletes, they topped the rankings as expected, respectively. But organisers are quick to point out that the emphasis is on participation rather than who won overall.
The games are a celebration of the human spirit that gives individuals, most with previously life-threatening ailments, the opportunity to compete in a high-level sports event and show that not only are they able to lead normal, fulfilling lives, but also push the boundaries of their physical endurance.
It is an event that offers hope to those who are awaiting transplants, and provides incentive for the general public to become donors by showing the very real difference that organ transplants can make to the lives of young and old.
Claudius Lam is an Officer with the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association.