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Asian Games 2018

Laid back Mak: Hong Kong’s top bowler cool as a cucumber during Million Tinkle World Men Championship

  • The 24-year-old is competing at the Million Tinkle World Men Championships
  • Mak has a goal of winning a world championship in singles one day
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2018, 9:09pm

Michael Mak Cheuk-yin doesn’t look or act like your typical ten-pin bowler.

He’s tall, thin and has a head of shaggy black hair with a laid-back sense to his walk, talk and demeanour. Sometimes he sports black-rimmed glasses, and his bowling shirt is rarely tucked in.

After his round, he casually wraps himself in a Fila sports jacket and looks more suited for the video game arcade or hanging out with friends at the movie theatre. But as the bowling community knows, this is just Mak.

“The best thing about him is he doesn’t try to be someone he’s not,” said his coach, Bill Hoffman, whose been working with Mak since he was 16. “He’s just Michael. He’s just who he is.”

Mak had an off day on Wednesday at the Million Tinkle World Men Championships, held at the SCAA Bowling Centre in Causeway Bay until December 5, but in typical Mak fashion, he isn’t losing his cool.

Luckily he finishes off his doubles game with partner Wu Siu-hong with two strikes and a spare to salvage his round, noting he started the day on the wrong foot.

“I didn’t sleep that well last night,” said the 24-year-old. “I got up at 3am and couldn’t fall back asleep.”

Why? He shrugs. “Dunno.”

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Despite his laid back personality, Mak has racked up some impressive wins as of late. He nabbed gold with teammates Eric Tseng Tak-hin and Wu at the 2017 World Bowling Championships in Las Vegas in the trio category. He also won a bronze with Wu at the 2017 World Games, held in Poland.

Prior to that he dominated the Asian Bowling Championship in 2016, taking home three golds medals (in doubles, trio and all events combined scores). He also has more than 80 registered 300 games (a perfect score in bowling which means 12 strikes in a row).

So far at the Million Tinkle World Men Championship, Mak has finished eighth in the singles, 35th in doubles and is currently 21st in trios. He also ranks 18th overall for his combined scores as of Thursday afternoon.

Mak, who has dreams of winning a world championship in singles one day, first got into bowling after his parents signed him up for a course at the age of eight, and said he took to the game after a series of decisions.

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“I like sports, I like running and football. Badminton and table tennis too so I played them all. But bowling is inside and it’s not hot. I don’t like to sweat so I chose bowling.”

Of course he had the skill to go along with a desire to stay cool.

“I found out I was quite good and I have talent, so that helped.”

Mak also noted he’s a left-footed football player, and in bowling, a right-handed shot relies heavily on the left leg, so he had a leg up to begin with, no pun intended.

He noted Wednesday was a rough day because the lane he got slotted into with Hong wasn’t co-operating and played “difficult”. In bowling each lane has its own set of characteristics determined by a variety of factors, and sometimes bowlers have to feel out the lane if it is impacting the way a ball moves towards the pins.

“Then you have to guess for the first few shots,” explained Mak. “It’s random, you don’t know what’s going to happen, some shots can be quite good but some shots can just turn out terrible, it’s just unlucky.”

Hoffman, who first noticed Mak at the 2010 World Youth Championship in Germany, where the “whole building” was talking about the youngster, said he has all the ingredients to become one of the world’s best and possibly win a singles title.

“He loves a good challenge, and he’s been bowling at this level for the past decade, so that’s a good asset to have.”