Bowling on the world stage isn’t something the eight members of Australia’s IBF U21 World Championship team aren’t likely to forget anytime soon.
Nixon Chan, Emily Bottomley, Cameron Stein, Sarah Pennicott, Jamie Robinson, Bernie Grueso Jnr, Hannah Clark and Ashlyn Mohr pulled on the Australian jersey to represent their country at the sport’s first international event since 2019.
“Bowling on the world stage is definitely a whole new level,” Pennicott said. “It shows you the dedication and effort needed to be able to compete with the world’s best, but I believe we showed the world, especially the boy’s team, that Australia is worthy of competing alongside the world’s best.”
Australia’s men’s team claimed bronze after going down in the semi-final to eventual champions the United States, who would eventually fall to the Czech Republic in the championship final
The team consisting of Stein, Robinson, Chan and Grueso Jnr, qualified 13th highest of 33 competing nations in the first stage of ten games before progressing to the match play stage where they finished second in Group A to book a semi-final spot and a guarantee of a medal.
While the loss to the United States was a bittersweet feeling for Chan, the team member’s morale and support of one another played an important role throughout the event.
“Matchplay, in particular, was a key factor in our success, the team got together, and the team spirit was so good,” he said.
“We managed to stay strong even when bowling against Sweden with the home crowd support. We know that support from within the team is the most important, and we gave each other that.
“The team could have performed a lot better during the semifinals, during the match we got nervous and forgot some things that we discussed, but it is great to come home with a medal,” Chan said.
Stein was also in agreement.
“Making great shots and backing each other when bowling was a help,” he said.
It was a journey full of new experiences, both on and off the lanes, from the sun not setting until 10pm, the constant variations in the weather, travelling to new places and making new friends.
As a bit of a social butterfly, Morh who hails from Western Australia went out of her way to interact with the other teams.
“We were staying in a hotel with a lot of the other teams, so we got to hang out with each other quite a lot!” she said. “I made some amazing friends over there, friendships that will last for a long time.”
The Baker Format was a hit amongst the Australian players.
The format, which emphasises the team effort rather than the accomplishments of the individual players, requires each player to bowl two frames in one game to combine for one score.
“It was super fun to bowl in! I found that it forced me to be on my game every single shot I threw, especially because I only got two shots a game,” Jones said.
“It levels out the field and gives everyone a fair chance at making it,” Robinson added.
“Bowling fewer frames per game helped me focus on shot-making,” Nixon said. “Also, the whole team has to be bowling well to keep up with the scoring pace, the format makes it more of a team sport compared to the conventional format.”
Despite it being their first time experiencing the format, Pennicott and Bottomley both enjoyed playing the format and hope it can be implemented more in Australia.
“The games went a lot quicker than they do in usual formats, and the need to communicate transition between your teammates was at a whole new level,” Bottomley said. “I felt like it is the future of high performance in a team category and something we should look at doing more of in Australia.”
“Personally, I love it as it made the game quick, enjoyable, and created a better and more involving team environment. I’d love to see this format used here in Australia more,” said Pennicott.
Playing at the World Championships has offered the team a chance to evolve and improve their game. Players noticed how the lane conditions changed throughout the event and how to adjust quickly to them, which included making changes to make to their physical game and keeping focus.
One of the biggest takeaways was the level of confidence bowlers gained.
“Since COVID-19 lockdown ended, I didn’t have the best year, I struggled to put my performance together to have one solid event. This event made me realise when I am at my best, I can compete with the best of the world,” Chan said.
“My biggest take away from the event is that I gained the confidence that I am capable of bowling alongside the world’s best, and I’m looking forward to using this motivation to work harder,” Pennicott added.
With the bowlers back in Australia, their attention now turns to the events at home including the Australian National Championships from 25 July to 6 August in Hobart, Tasmania.