All eyes on Yannapol to deliver the goods for Kingdom in Doha Games By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam



    Republished courtesy of The Nation, Thailand (Nov. 21, 2006)

    2006AsianGamesLogo.jpg Yannaphon Larpapharat.jpg The Thailand Tenpin Bowling Congress is pinning high hopes on its men's squad to earn glory in the Doha Asiad with key kegler Yannapol Larp-aparat (right) being touted as a medal prospect in the individual category.

    The team, which also includes Sitthipon Kunna-aksorn, Chinna-pong Chansuk and Somjet Kusonpithak, will test its mettle in the singles, doubles, trio, team, all event and masters in the continental bowling contest which has 12 gold medals on offer.

    South Korean Kim Eui-young, the long-time national coach, said the men's team has a better chance of winning medals than the women's squad, which comprises only two bowlers - Angkana Netwiset and Saruta Songserm. As mental toughness plays a significant role in this sport, Kim expects better results in group events.

    "Individually, players will have to carry a lot of pressure but as a team, the pressure is split. If one plays bad, others might score better to help the team's standing. So my picks will be the trio and team's events," said Kim, who has been supervising the team since the 2002 Asiad.

    The South Korean, however, did not write off his players in the individual category. He is relying heavily on Yannapol, the only Thai bowler to return from the 2002 Games in Busan* with a silver in the singles event.

    "Yannapol is talented and is capable of winning a medal in the masters. But his only problem is sometimes he cannot keep his mind under control which was the reason why he didn't win four years ago," Kim said.

    In the 14th Games, Yannapol seized a 1180-1173 lead over Singaporean Remy Ong after five blocks in the singles competition. But he slumped to 192 against Ong's 216 in the last block which deprived him of a gold. The former Thailand Open and Asian Tour champion cited lack of experience and failure to adapt to the lane condition as the main factors for his lacklustre ending in the previous edition.

    "Then I was young and didn't know how to tackle the change of lane conditions. But now we practise under the same conditions as they have in Doha. I expect to do better than in Busan," said Yannapol, an ex-junior world champion.

    Yannapol and his team are training at the SF Strike Bowl Ramkhamhaeng whose entrepreneur invested more than a million baht (appr. US$27,359) to import the same brand of oiling machine which will be used at the Asian Games. The familiarisation with the machine, no doubt, has boosted the confidence of the team.

    "Our players feel comfortable with the lanes which will help them adjust to the conditions easily in Doha," felt Kim, who predicted that South Koreans will be the main rivals for the Thai men's team and Singapore as a big hurdle in the women's section.

    The team has jelled together with members renting a house in Suan Luang district and living together. They start their daily practice at 5am with a Round of jogging, and bowl in the alley between 6-8pm.

    The secretary-general of the bowling association, Suwalai Satrulee, said unlike other sports, bowling cannot be evaluated from previous results. There is no guarantee who will secure the gold medal in the end, he says.

    "If you track the previous results, you will see that no one has defended their gold medals," said Suwalai. "It's a game by game, lane by lane competition. Only the one who performs better and has more solid concentration will be the winner."

    She promised the bowling team would not come home empty-handed. "At least we will try to achieve an equivalent result of the previous Games."

    * Year and event was corrected.