Hong Kong lawn bowlers out to make it another Classic as they defend three out of four titles
Last year, the city enjoyed one of its greatest days in local lawn bowls history, winning the men’s and women’s singles and women’s pairs competition at the International Classic
Buoyed by last year’s sensational performances in which the home team bagged three out of the four titles at stake, local bowlers will be out for more glory in the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic, starting this weekend.
Jordi Lo Tsz-yuen and Dorothy Yu Kin-shan snared the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively on a glorious day 12 months ago and there was more success in women’s pairs competition, where Hong Kong youth members Vivian Yip Wai-tak and Amy Choi Ging-yi stole the show with a surprise title victory.
Lo, who became the first local bowler to win the Classic men’s singles since Noel Kennedy achieved the feat in 1994, said Hong Kong have made an indelible mark in the tournament – more than any other time in the 30-plus year-old competition.
“Hong Kong bowlers have come a long way during the past few years,” said Lo, who defends his title at the Hong Kong Football Club today.
“Before we were competing in the Classic for fun and trying to enjoy ourselves, but now we have become strong contenders in all competitions. This is the biggest change. We have the can-do spirit and although it will be hard to match last year’s feat, we will be competitive on all fronts, there’s no doubt about that.”
Lo will again face strong competition as he attempts to retain the title he won last year as a massive underdog.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Bobby Donnelly of South Africa leads the international challenge together with 2015 world junior singles champion Ryan Burnett from Scotland.
Kiwi veteran Paul Girdler, a former Classic pairs champion (2002) and Classic singles winner (2005) could also shine.
Lo knows he will need to hit the ground running if he is to have any chance of defending his title.
“This is a knock-out event, so you could lose in the first round. My first three matches are at Hong Kong Football Club. If I can survive that, I will play the quarter-finals at my home ground at Craigengower Cricket Club. It will be to my advantage but anything can happen on the day.
“My confidence is good because two weeks ago I won my club [CCC] singles title. So my form isn’t bad going into this tournament.”
Yu agreed that Hong Kong bowlers have improved in leaps in bounds over the last few years and will remain competitive at the Classic.
“From the women’s competition prospective, we have definitely improved and we are matching the best bowlers in the world. We have home advantage too at the Classic. The rinks will be a bit slower, which would suit the Hong Kong bowlers more. But the weather has been quite dry so the rinks could run a bit faster than usual.
“I do have confidence. I have improved but the opposition from overseas is very strong. I am preparing for the World Bowling Championships later this month in Christchurch [New Zealand],” she said. “I didn’t qualify for singles so I will compete in pairs and foursome.”
Yu will have to watch out for Scotland’s Lorna Smith and Margaret Letham, who have both won gold medals at the World Championship and Commonwealth Games. Letham is also familiar with the rinks in Hong Kong being a former Classic singles champion in 2008.
The two-week Classic will be held at the Craigengower Cricket Club (CCC), Hong Kong Football Club and Indian Recreation Club on Saturday before the finals move to CCC on Sunday.