In the annals of sports history, September 27, 1986, will forever remain etched as a momentous day for Hongkong. After three long decades of participation and anticipation, the territory celebrated its very first gold medal victory at the Asian Games. And the laurels for this iconic win went to a tenacious 34-year-old tenpin bowler affectionately nicknamed “The Cat” – Catherine Che.
Catherine Che’s journey in the world of bowling began a dozen years before this iconic moment. As an accountant by profession, one might assume that her daily life revolved around figures and financial statements. However, Catherine’s heart and soul were always in the lanes of a bowling alley. Over the years, she honed her skills and became a force to be reckoned with in the sport. Her prowess in bowling was evident when she clinched the title of Hongkong Masters champion, representing the renowned team, Equipe 66.
But this wasn’t her first dance on the international stage. Catherine had already tasted global competition eight years prior, in 1978, during the Asian Games held in Bangkok. She secured not one, but two bronze medals, affirming her status as a prominent figure in tenpin bowling.
Fast forward to that historic day in 1986, the East Seoul Bowling Centre was buzzing with excitement. Every seat was taken as spectators from all over Asia gathered, eagerly awaiting the culmination of the women’s singles tenpin bowling event. Catherine stood among 36 competitors, each one equally determined to clinch the top honor.
With the weight of 32 years of anticipation on her shoulders, Catherine embarked on the final series of the six-game event. Displaying unmatched focus and precision, she delivered an astounding score of 203. But it was her exceptional performance in her last two games that stole the show. Catherine achieved three strikes, securing the coveted gold medal for herself and her territory. She also bagged the title for the best high series over three games with a cumulative score of 613.
When the final scores were tallied, Catherine’s overall count was a whopping 1,165. This left her a significant 13 points ahead of Thailand’s Wannasiri Duangdee, the silver medalist, and a comfortable 19 points clear of the athlete in third place.
In the history of the Asian Games, Hongkong’s journey had been marked with its fair share of ups and downs. The territory began its participation in the Games from its second edition, having missed the inaugural event in New Delhi in 1951. Over the years, Hongkong athletes bagged a handful of honors – five silver medals in disciplines like badminton, bowling, and table tennis, and an additional nine bronze medals.
But as Catherine stood on the podium that day, the past records paled in comparison to the shining gold medal around her neck. Tears streamed down her face as Hongkong’s national flag was hoisted high, accompanied by the familiar notes of ‘God Save the Queen.’ Later, a visibly emotional Catherine expressed her feelings, “Going up to collect the medal was overwhelmingly emotional. Without a shadow of doubt, this has been the pinnacle of my life.”