Rolling down the lawn of success

Fadhil Yunus

Brunei Darussalam’s national lawn bowlers have been enjoying a string of successes in the continental scene over the years, more notably a series of podium finishes at major events recognised by Asian and world governing bodies.

The national team rose to prominence when Pengiran Haji Mohd Salleh Chuchu bin Pengiran Haji Tuah, Haji Naim Brahim and Lokman Mohammad Salleh struck gold in the men’s triples event at the 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in the Philippines.

The trio repeated their exploits two years later in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand when Haji Naim topped the men’s singles event. With back-to-back gold medals, it catapulted him to the upper echelons of Brunei’s elite sportsmen in recent memory.

With impressive records in the SEA Games under their belt, the team put their abilities on a wider field when they set their sight on Asian glory.

It was during the prestigious Asia Pacific Bowls Championships 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where Brunei reached new heights in the sport when its women’s team, comprising Ajijah Muntol, Nabilah Salleh Chuchu, Fatmah Ibrahim and Siti Ervi Ferdarusamti Umar, scooped the silver medal.

The success of the quartet marked the first time that Brunei had medalled in the event since its inception in 1985.

The ensuing years saw the country cap a place in the playoff at the World Singles Champion of Champions in 2011, a competition that attracts an even larger field of talents.

In 2015, at the Asia Pacific Indoor Championships in Malaysia, Brunei secured second runner-up in the mixed pairs’ event thanks to the stellar performance by Mohd Huzaimi bin Haji Md Salleh and Rosita Kamis.

Local lawn bowlers reached yet another milestone when they qualified for the World Bowls Championship after staging a deep run in the Asia Pacific Championships, which served as a qualifying event in 2015.

Pengiran Haji Mohd Salleh Chuchu and Haji Naim joined forces with Mohd Huzaimi and Ali bin Haji Bujang in the men’s fours event.

The quartet staged an upset against the favourite, Australia, in the final group match to book a spot in the world meet.

In addition, the men’s and women’s singles, led by Abdul Rahman Omar and Nabilah, earned berths in the world championship in New Zealand following an excellent record in the group stage.

Also making the cut were men’s triples team of Ali, Haji Naim and Abdul Rahman and women’s triples team of Nabilah, Esmawandy Ibrahim and Suhana Daud to ensure a near complete delegation on the world stage.

After a strong end to the year, the lawn bowlers resumed their momentum the following year at the 11th Asian Lawn Bowls Championships, hosted by Brunei, by producing their best ever results in the history of the competition when they snatched one gold, two silver and two bronze medals en route to a third-place finish in the overall standings, behind Malaysia and Hong Kong.

The team ended the year in style when women’s singles competitor Amaliah Matali claimed silver in the coveted World Singles Champion of Champions while Abdul Rahman clinched bronze in the men’s singles event.

The two lawn bowlers also drew international recognition when they received praises from World Bowls Chief Executive Officer Gary Smith at Club Helensvale in Gold Coast, Australia.

He said, “The outstanding achievements of these two great ambassadors of our sport of lawn bowls is remarkable bearing in mind that Brunei is one of our smallest member nations, having only 45 registered members.”

The national lawn bowls team returned to the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2017 and came back with a haul of medals.

Silver medallists were: Haji Naim, Ampuan Ahad bin Ampuan Kasim and Pengiran Haji Tengah bin Pengiran Haji Tejudin in the men’s triples event; Amaliah in the women’s singles; and Nabilah and Esmawandy in the women’s doubles. Ajijah, Suhana and Norafizah Matossen bagged a bronze medal in the women’s triples event.

Two months later, Ampuan Ahad and Pengiran Haji Tengah snatched silver in the men’s pairs’ event at the 12th Asian Lawn Bowls Championships in New Delhi, India.

The team repeated their exploits in the SEA Games in Manila last December when Amaliah and Esmawandy took silver in the women’s pairs while new line-up of Bahren Abdul Rahman, Mohd Hazmi bin Haji Idris and Haji Amli bin Haji Gafar earned silver in the men’s fours event.