Rafiq was in sublime form in the men's singles, leading the pack to take the gold medal from the second frame onwards. - IZZRAFIQ ALIAS / The Star
SINGAPORE: Three pins. That's all Rafiq Ismail needed to snag Malaysia's 16th gold of the Singapore SEA Games.
The 18-year-old rolled lines of 246-221-235-225-192-189 for 1,308 pinfalls to snatch the gold ahead of Thailand's Annop Arromsaranon, who took the silver with 1,305 pinfalls at the Orchid Bowl in the Orchid Country Club.
Singapore's Javier Tan placed third with 1,284.
Much was expected of Rafiq, who came into the Games with a fistful of titles, having won the men’s Masters titles at the National Championships in March and Thailand Open in April as well as four golds at the Asian Youth Championships in Macau in March.
The Games debutant put himself in contention early on with 246 pins in the opening game to place third. He then kept his pace to lead the 41-man field for the next four games, holding a slim 20-pin lead over Singapore's Tan going into game six.
It was a nervy finish as the Thai contingent had already erupted in cheers, thinking they had nicked the win.
"I've really got to thank coach Holloway (Cheah) and Uncle Fred (Penang Sports Council sports psychologist Frederick Tan). Words from them really helped calm my nerves," said Rafiq.
"I took longer than I should to get used to the lanes in game five and that gave me the low score. In the final game, I knew the challenge was growing from Annop, Javier and Ryan Lalisang (of Indonesia), so even if I didn't strike, I'd try to spare.
"I'm just very happy to win the gold for Malaysia."
The Star Online