SINGAPORE – After enjoying an medal-laden career in bowling, national kegler Joey Yeo has decided to retire from professional sport to pursue her life-long dream of going into the medical field when she enrols in Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School this month.
The 23-year-old admitted on Saturday (July 3) that it was a tough call to make, but knowing that she had given her best in a career that saw her win a world title, as well as multiple Asian Games and world championship medals, helped walking away from the competitive scene a little easier.
“I can proudly say that I have achieved a very fulfilled career and it’s been a great run. My life journey has just taken on a different path and it’s okay to say that,” said Yeo, who also expressed gratitude to the Singapore Bowling Federation (SBF), Singapore Sport Institute, her coaches, parents and teammates.
“It’s not like I’m quitting bowling entirely. I will definitely work towards giving back to the community as much as I can because it’s given me so much.”
Yeo, who completed her undergraduate studies in physiotherapy at Singapore Institute of Technology last year, wanted to go into medicine to help others.
She said: “It’s always been something about wanting to help people and being able to help people at their most vulnerable state and being there for them.
“Just being able to help anyone feel better gives me joy and it’s something I’ve felt myself being drawn to since young.”
Yeo began bowling when she was eight and was promoted to the national women’s team in 2013.
A year later, she made her major Games debut at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, where she was part of the team that won the women’s team of five gold, which she counts as one of the highlights of her career.
Although she was not out on the lanes with the team, the experience of being at the competition alongside Cherie Tan, Daphne Tan, Shayna Ng, New Hui Fen and Jazreel Tan is one that she treasures.
Yeo said: “The women’s national team had been very strong for the longest time and I was the newest member of the team and they welcomed me with open arms.
“Even though I wasn’t bowling for them in the team event, I was cheering for them in the sidelines. Seeing their passion and the camaraderie just motivated me to do work with them.”
Another moment she holds close to her heart is when she captured the inaugural Bowling World Open title in Japan in 2015, especially after she missed the cut for the SEA Games in the same year.
Her other achievements include winning bronze and silver team medals at the 2015 and 2017 Women’s World Bowling Championships and a women’s trio bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games.
National head coach Jason Yeong-Nathan was sad to see Yeo step down as he believes she had not achieved her full potential yet.
But he was also happy for Yeo, whom he described as a determined person with the ability to lift the team’s spirits. He said: “She’s an inspiration to a lot of kids out there that you can be a successful athlete and still have a successful career after that.”
While the national set-up has lost a promising, young kegler in Yeo, Yeong-Nathan is not worried as he is confident of the abilities of SBF’s up and coming talents, including the likes of Arianne Tay, 17, who won the girls’ singles gold at the 2019 World Junior Bowling Championships.
He said: “There’s a lot of talent that’s coming up so I believe it’s just a matter of time before someone will fill her shoes. The last two years have been a bit tough because there were no competitions so that slowed down the process.”