Malaysia's bowlers (clockwise, from left) Aaron Kong, Esther Cheah, Shalin Zulkifli, Zatil Iman, Adrian Ang and Zulmazran Zulkifli pose with their medals after taking the women's trios gold and the men's trios bronze at the SF Strike Bowl in Bangkok yesterday.
SHALIN Zulkifli rode to Malaysia's rescue with a blazing final game in the women's trios but an error by Zulmazran Zulkifli in the last frame denied Malaysia a double victory at the SF Strike Bowl in Bangkok yesterday.
But a pep talk by sports psychologist Frederick Tan saw the Malaysians stage a comeback of mighty proportions as Shalin and Esther downed 254 and 238 respectively in addition to Zatil's 181 for a final game 673 which gave Malaysia a total of 3,554 for gold.
Thailand finished 41 pins adrift on 3,513 after a dramatic 102-pin turnaround while Singapore's Evelyn Chan, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan and Amanda Ng took bronze on 3,489.
"We knew what we had to do to win. We found it difficult adjusting to the lanes and couldn't find the lines for the first few games but going into that last game, we knew we had to do it by hook or by crook," said Shalin, who won her 14th gold medal in five Sea Games appearances.
"It was just unreal and I can hardly believe it. Frederick said not to give up and just bowl your best. Although I did only 181 in the last game, I had great support from Shalin and Esther," said the 19-year-old Sea Games debutante.
But it was heartbreak for the men's trios of Zulmazran, Adrian Ang and Aaron Kong, who had the gold medal clearly within their sights but a three-pin split in the final frame by Zulmazran proved costly.
The Malaysians were forced to settle for bronze on 3,486 after having trailed the Indonesian trio of Ryan Lalisang, Oscar and Haqi Rumandung by nine pins going into the final game.
Indonesia finished three pins ahead of Malaysia but they themselves were overtaken by the Singapore trio of Ng Qenn, Jason Yeong-Nathan and Remy Ong, who won by the slenderest of margins after Remy knocked down a nine in his last roll for a single-pin win.
National coach Holloway Cheah, while happy with the women's extraordinary comeback, was livid with the men's inability to finish the job.
"It should have been a great day for Malaysia but that last frame split was all that separated us from gold. It could have been two today (yesterday) but we still have five events left for us to reach our four-gold target," he said.
For the team of fives today, Holloway is set to drop a poorly-performing Zandra Aziela Ibrahim Hakimi but will decide on the men's team at the last possible moment.