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BOWLING: Just a start for Syafiq


PRO DREAM: With marriage as his rock, kegler eyes America, European tours

 MARRIAGE made Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek a more dedicated bowler and he attributed his AMF World Cup triumph to his wife Noor Syafira Noor Rashid.

Syafiq got a hero's welcome at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang yesterday and the first thing the 26-year-old did was to give his mum Noraini Ismail a kiss on the cheek before receiving a bouquet from his wife.

He married his Universiti Putra Malaysia sweetheart Noor Syafira in May.

A late-bloomer, Syafiq finally made a breakthrough in a prestigious event by becoming Malaysia's first ever champion in the AMF World Cup.

"I did not expect it as my initial aim in Poland was to gain experience. It was totally unexpected," said Syafiq yesterday.

"Married life has made me a responsible person and a more dedicated bowler. I not only trained hard at the gym to lose 18kg in one year but also worked hard in training.

"I also kept myself fit by cycling and jogging. The amount of work I put in off the lanes helped me with my focus on the game."

A cycling enthusiast, Syafiq cycles between 60 and 70 kilometres three times a week in Putrajaya or Genting Sempah and jogs on the treadmill three or four times weekly.

The win was a perfect belated birthday gift for Syafiq, who turned 26 on Nov 29 in Poland.

"I was touched when national coach Holloway Cheah bought me a cup cake. I blew out the candles on the cup cake and shared it with Holloway and Sin Li Jane.

"As I am crazy about bicycles, my wife bought me a rim as a birthday gift before I left for Poland. I like upgrading my bicycle parts and the gift was perfect," said the Taiwan Open champion.

Syafiq's dream is to turn professional and play on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour and the European Tour one day.

"I actually want to turn pro but I am not sure when I can achieve it. It takes a lot of dedication but I believe, if I do turn pro, I can make it as I've beaten many top bowlers before," said Syafiq.

He hopes his win in Poland would spur his teammates, especially the juniors, to achieve greater heights in the sport.

"I believe my win will give others the self-belief to strive for success. I have completed a collection of prestigious titles for Malaysia but we must not stop here.

"We must train harder to maintain our status as one of the world's best teams," said the Sea Games gold medallist.

Syafiq will not take a break from the lanes and will report for training immediately to prepare for the Penang Pesta (Dec 7-15) and the All-Stars Masters (Dec 11-22).

"I want end the year on a high. It will be great if I can do well in both tournaments," Syafiq added.

Holloway, meanwhile, said Syafiq produced a spirited display in the event despite the flight delay and the late arrival of his equipment in Poland.

"Syafiq neither had his ball nor shoes during the official practice but managed to absorb what he could from borrowed items.

"We communicated well and he followed my advice throughout the competition. Several coaches there praised him for his achievement," said Holloway.

AMF World Cup champion Muhammad Syafiq Ridhwan shows his trophies to wife Noor Shafira Noor Rashid at the KLIA yesterday. Pic by Goh Thean Howe

Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek receives a kiss from his mother Noraini Ismail at the KLIA in Sepang yesterday. Pic by Goh Thean Howe

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