National bowler Corporal First Class (CFC) (NS) Alex Chong doesn't give up easily.
There's a steely determination in his eyes as he strides towards the edge of the lane.
One swift swing, and the bowling ball glides off his left hand. It's a strike!
He may have just been doing this for the photoshoot but to CFC (NS) Chong, every bowl matters.
This was the same passion and tenacity that got him through years of training, even when things got tough.
Taking it in stride
His love for the sport started when he was nine and his family went bowling every Sunday.
He tasted victory after taking up the sport as a Co-Curricular Activity, winning Silver in the inter-school bowling championships when he was in Primary Five.
At 13, he enrolled in the Singapore Sports School. While that was an affirmation of his talent, his happiness was short-lived. His peers were much better than him and he was often on the second team during competitions.
But he never gave up. Instead, he asked the school's bowling centre manager for tips and put in extra hours before his training.
Making the cut
His efforts paid off. At 15, he placed second in the graded division at his first overseas tournament in Hong Kong and subsequently entered the national youth team.
The Republic Polytechnic alumnus then represented Singapore in several competitions, including the 2013 Asian Youth Tenpin Bowling Championships and World Youth Bowling Championships in 2014 and 2016. The latter was his last tournament before he enlisted. It also marked the first time he ranked top 20 in a competition.
As an armoured infantry trooper, CFC (NS) Chong was equally determined to make the most of his National Service (NS) experience.
He volunteered to be the platoon's second in-charge (2IC) in the Headquarters (HQ) platoon from 40th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment (40 SAR). He also made an effort to encourage and motivate his NS mates.
"My Officer Commanding (OC) saw that I put in a lot of effort in bringing my platoon together, that's why I was promoted to the rank of CFC," he said with a smile.
CFC (NS) Chong's attitude earned the trust of his commanders and they granted him time off to train for the 2018 Asian Games in August.
His days were spent preparing and doing ramp-up training for Exercise Wallaby, an annual exercise in Queensland, Australia. The national bowler would then book out in the evening from Keat Hong Camp and train for two hours at Temasek Club before booking in again. This routine lasted for six weeks.
"It takes a lot of discipline. After training, I dabao-ed (Mandarin for takeaway) my dinner back to camp instead of eating with my friends. In order not to break the trust of my OC, I made sure that I booked out and in by the required time," recalled CFC (NS) Chong.
When he felt tired, he reminded himself that he was fortunate to be able to serve NS, go for Exercise Wallaby and train for his bowling competition at the same time. "That motivated me, and I wanted to produce results at the Asian Games."
On 23 Aug, he did just that. Together with teammates Muhammad Jaris Goh and Darren Ong, the 22-year-old clinched a bronze medal at the men's trios event in Palembang, Indonesia.
After the competition, he went back to his NS duties, training in Exercise Wallaby for 25 days as part of the Man Portable Anti-Tank team.
"Training from dusk till dawn in back-to-back missions made us treasure each other's company. We were constantly encouraging one another during our time out in the field."
Leading a purposeful life
Today, the bowler has his sights set on the 2019 SEA Games. In the meantime, he wants to pursue a sports coaching degree and become a bowling coach in the future.
"I've been bowling for 11 years, and that's half my life so far. It's time to share my experience with the younger generation."