On top, yet still climbing

On top, yet still climbing

An 18-year-old student's senior lawn bowls title makes him more determined to play for Hong Kong's youth side


Bowler Simpson Chang_L
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP
Simpson Chang Ho-tin has had a crazy time in the sport of lawn bowls. He has yet to win a youth competition title, but surprisingly he took a national title in what is traditionally a senior man's sport.

Simpson, 18, started to bowl in Form One when he was at PLK CW Chu College in Tai Wai. He partnered the more experienced 24-year-old Anthony Yip Ho-tak at last month's 2x4x2 Pairs Competition, a senior tournament organised by the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association. Simpson was the lead (a junior position) and Anthony was the skip in the tournament.

The young pair, playing for Hong Kong Youth Development Team (HKYDT), shocked everyone when they kept winning. Eventually they beat Alfred Ng Chong-fat and Chung Kin-wah, of Golden Bauhinia Lawn Bowls Club, in the final.

The HKYDT is for bowlers with potential. Top achievers in local youth competitions are put into the youth squad, which represents Hong Kong in international events.

Anthony had made it into the squad before winning the 2 x 4 x 2 title, but Simpson is still trying to qualify. It means Simpson is the first HKYDT player to win a national title without being in the squad. He is also the second youngest national title holder in Hong Kong's history.

Simpson says taking part in a six-day training camp in Malaysia helped him immensely. "I used to have no specific goals," he says. "After going to Malaysia, I can draw with a bowl better. I practised hundreds of times a day. I'm also able to set better goals."

In bowls, "drawing" refers to being able to land a bowl in a specific place without disturbing other bowls already in play.

The first year student at VTC Youth College (Kwai Fong) says the tournament helped him gained a "big-match temperament". He says: "In the semi-final, I was so nervous that I almost froze. I was under huge pressure with so many people watching me play on the green.

"It's remarkable that I won the title, but what's more important to me as a player is that I've started to understand the advice of senior players.

"I talked to my experienced friend, Jonathan Law Ka-cheong. I found I was able to understand what he was saying. He gave me valuable input on my performance. I've gained a basic sense of how to deal with bigger tournaments after winning the title."

Ironically, winning this senior national title won't help Simpson earn a place in the HKDYT squad. The title points from senior events don't count towards that.

To make the squad, Simpson must do well in the national singles, national indoor singles, national knockout singles and the very important under-25 singles events.

Simpson has got on well with his teammates since joining the HKYDT in Form Four. He was even chosen as the vice-captain this year.

Coaches have seen his potential, too, and always give him opportunities to train and compete. But the lack of big-match temperament has held him back from securing his place on the squad.

"The under-25 singles event is usually held every November," Simpson says. "It has three rounds of round-robin matches and makes up 40 per cent of the ranking points, so winners immediately have a really high chance to qualify for the squad.

"In my previous two attempts, I failed to cope with the pressure and didn't make it to the finals.

"I hope my senior tournament victory will be a start so I can cope next time. Getting into the squad is my top priority in the next 12 months."



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