As the light shines down the bowling alley, Shalin Zulkifli swings her bowling arm out and back. The audience roars their approval as she strikes; her ball hitting all 10 bowling pins.
It’s the end of just another workday for the Malaysian professional 10-pin bowler.
At the recent SEA Games 2017, the veteran reaffirmed her status as the most decorated bowler in the history of the series.
The 39-year-old stunned everyone by winning three golds in trios (with Sin Li Jane and Esther Cheah), team (Li Jane, Esther, Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman, Natasha Roslan and Syaidatul Afifah Badrul Hamidi) and Masters, to extend her career record to the 20-gold mark in eight Games appearances. She also won bronze in the singles and silver with Alex Liew in the mixed doubles.
Shalin got the ball rolling on her debut at the 1993 Singapore Games, followed by two in Jakarta 1997; five in Brunei 1999; four in Kuala Lumpur 2001; three in Korat 2007; and one in Singapore 2015.
She’s now just two golds short of equalling swimmer Nurul Huda Abdullah’s all-time record of 22 golds for the country.
Shalin’s dazzling show at the KL Games proved she still has a few good years left in her.
“My goals now are to win a PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) title and another gold medal in the Asian Games, while holding the responsibilities as a mother and a wife,” said Shalin.
“I want to be Malaysia’s best athlete and be remembered in history,” she added in an email interview with Star2.
Shalin started bowling at the age of nine and represented the country when she was 13.
Now the mother of six-year-old Aleya Azid, Shalin’s passion towards bowling remains and she is not quite done yet as she has unaccomplished goals to realise.
However, her success has not been without sacrifices.
“Sometimes, I miss being around my family during special occasions, such as Hari Raya,” lamented Shalin. “But all of these sacrifices are necessary to be a successful athlete.”
Luckily for Shalin, she is blessed with a strong support network.
Shalin’s husband, Azidi Ameran – a former national bowler – has been giving her moral support throughout her path to be an elite bowler.
“I have seen my friends quitting sports because of the sacrifices that need to be made. I’m very fortunate as I have an incredibly supportive family who takes care of the house when I am training or when I am competing overseas,” explained Shalin.
However, her schedule is about to get a lot more hectic.
Shalin is preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Kuwait in December.
But she is more than ready, as this is what she’s trained for her whole life.
“In every competition, my aim is always to give my best. I always believe that working hard is the key to success,” said Shalin.
Sports has taught Shalin meaningful lessons. From competing with athletes from different countries to understanding their cultural practices, it has made her a better and more understanding individual.
Shalin is also blessed with the support of the government.
“You know how lucky you are when you have the support of the government. Many countries, even sporting nations like the United States and Australia, do not get as much support and funding as Malaysian athletes do,” explained Shalin.
The national bowler also shares her thoughts on Merdeka.
“To me, Merdeka is freedom. It has given me the leverage to achieve great things in life. Without the country’s independence, all of my achievements would not be possible. If we were still colonised, I don’t think Malaysians would have the freedom to choose who they want to be,” said Shalin.
Shalin usually spends her National Day away from the country in the hopes of bringing back a special gift to the nation, in the form of her victory in sports.
“I usually celebrate Merdeka by participating in competitions overseas. If I am back in Malaysia during Merdeka, I will be involved in the national parade,” added Shalin.
“As I age, I tend to appreciate all the sacrifices made by our ancestors who fought for our country’s independence,” enthused Shalin.
Shalin, who has played and won various national and international tournaments for Malaysia, is now one of the country’s most treasured assets.
To become the top bowler in the region, she has encountered numerous trials and tribulations throughout her career.
“Life doesn’t always turn out the way you want it. But if you work hard enough, sometimes, you will end up where you want to be.
“If everything was easy, then everyone would achieve their goals.
“From the start, I’ve wanted my hard work to be recognised,” concluded Shalin.