The Australian Senior team has returned home with three medals from the 2019 World Senior Championship in Las Vegas, USA.
The Australian team medal haul included two silvers and one bronze ultimately placing the Australians fifth overall on the medal tally. The host nation, the United States of America (USA), led all countries with 11 medals which included six gold, one silver and four bronze.
Tenpin Bowling Australia Hall of Famer Jeanette Baker was the clear standout for the Australian team playing a part in all three medal events. The Victorian claimed one bronze (doubles) and two silvers (teams and all events) on her way to make it a championships to remember.
“Beyond all our expectations and even probably hers” said Coach Jang. “Before I left I knew, in her prime, she was one of the best in the world, the best amateur in the world. With her standard, if she can get into form, she always is a potential medal winner there’s no questions about that”.
The championship boasted participation from 262 athletes from 42 countries all competing for medals in singles, doubles, teams, all events and master events.
The Australian men kicked off the campaign for the team with all bowlers having six games to provide a top 4 that would compete for medals. Bowling for the first time in the green and gold, Andrew Thorpe was the best of the Aussie men averaging 223.17 over the six. Thorpe would narrowly miss the medal round by two pins behind eventual silver medallist Michael Snow from Canada.
“A real surprise packet” said Coach Jang. “Missing a medal by 2 pins –this is the way it happens sometimes, unfortunately there is always a loser it’s just agonising when it’s so close”.
In another impressive effort for the men, Michael Muir averaged 210.83 over the six to place him 16th. For the ladies, both Mary Dodds and Jeanette Baker would lead the way. Dodds would place 16th with 196.33 and Baker 18th with a 194.50 average over six.
The pairing of Andrew Thorpe and Michael Muir led the way for the team in the men’s event. Finishing in 7th place and 29 pins behind medal round qualifiers Sweden. Thorpe continued his impressive form averaging 228.67 in the doubles event which catapulted him to second place on the All Events table.
For the ladies, the team of Jeanette Baker and Mary Dodds would go on to win the first medal for the Australians. Averaging 222.50 over six games, Baker steered the ship for the Australians to claim a bronze medal.
“It’s really hard to describe the feelings of absolute elation and joy at receiving that first bronze medal with JB, she was absolutely fearless in getting us to those finals” explained Dodds. “It was a dream to be bowling toe to toe with the world best senior women and to come away with a medal of any colour was a real sense of achievement and one of the proudest moments of my bowling career”.
Proud Victorian representatives, Baker and Dodds are no strangers to bowling with each other.
“As both Mary and I had been successful as a doubles combination in the 2018 Seniors Challenge, we were more than happy to be paired together” explained Baker. “Just by playing one shot at a time and one game at a time, we were amazed at reaching the medal play offs”.
“When the girls got the bronze it kind of sent a wave through the team that relaxed everyone” described head coach Jang. “It made us understand that we can compete here and it removed any doubts that may have existed before then”.
38 countries lined up for the men’s team event with the Aussies placing ninth at the end of two blocks of three games.
Sitting in second place on the all events table after bowling 1339 in the singles, 1372 in the doubles, Thorpe struggled in the team’s event bowling 1166, dropping to 8th on the All Events ladder. Thorpe’s performance (average of 215.39 over three events) still qualified him for the masters event that the top 24 all event bowlers would participate in. Michael Muir would be the second Australian to make the cut finishing in 20th place averaging 207.83 over the three events.
“The pleasant surprise was how Andrew started out with the event, he bowled extremely well, and unfortunately when it came down to the wire he didn’t perform as well as he did in the first two events” said Coach Jang. “He did suffer a bit of a stomach bug before that last event and couldn’t quite get it together in that second block of teams. Still, he did amazingly well”.
After winning the bronze medal in the doubles event, a confident Aussie ladies group entered the team’s event eager to add to the medal collection. The Aussies burst out of the first block bowling an event high collective score of 840 in the first game with all bowlers bowling 200+.
After the first game in the second block the team dropped out of the top four to fifth. Fast forward to the last game of the second block, Australia sat in third place with countries breathing down their neck to qualify for the medal round. A special performance was needed.
Enter Hall of Fame Jeanette Baker. The ever impressive Baker bowled a near perfect game of 290. The high game from Baker drove the Australians to second place and cemented their spot in the medal finals. Team rookie Mary Dodds was in awe of her teammate’s performance.
“When JB bowled that 290 game the team just lifted to a whole other level the excitement and jubilation was shared by the whole team as though we had bowled that game ourselves, it was truly inspirational” said Dodds.
“At no time did I have any idea that we were in medal play off position” explained Baker. “As a team we simply bowled as well as we could and left the result to a higher authority. The group consolidated well as a team and I think the result proved the harmony of the ladies”.
The medal round began with a surprise. The finals would have a change of format, the Baker system would be initiated.
In a best of three format, the Aussies were matched against Sweden in the first semi-final. Losing the first game, the Aussies would fight back to defeat Sweden 2-1, booking their ticket to the gold medal game. The might of team USA was too much for the Aussies, losing in straight sets to the host country but winning a silver medal at a World Championships in the process.
“I thought that no feeling could surpass winning that bronze medal until we found ourselves rolling off for possible gold in the teams” said Dodds. “We were a team from the moment we stood on those lanes and to know that we were all coming home with a medal will be a memory I will cherish for many years to come”.
“Throughout the event, every single one of the girls stood up at one time to take the lead and make some great shots” explained a proud Coach Jang. “There was never a time where one person was struggling all the time which is great to see. Everybody at times got into trouble, everybody at times did a great job. That’s what made them a great team”.
The unbelievable news would continue with confirmation that Jeanette Baker had sewn up another silver medal on the All Events table. Averaging 206.06 over the three events, Baker would walk away from the championships with one bronze and two silver medals. An amazing haul that adds to the already remarkable career of the Hall of Famer.
“This ladies team was the most harmonious and congruent of any team I had travelled to this event for, so this was a major highlight and believe the results validate this point” clarified Baker.
“I have never seen JB in this frame of mind where she was enjoying it and just staying so level headed throughout. Not too high, not too low. It was reflected in the way she performed, in the way the rest of the team was able to lift themselves up too” said Coach Jang.
Earmarked as a team leader before the trip, Coach Jang was pleased she fulfilled her role.
“Jeanette led by example, and it drew the best out of the other players, she did the work, and got herself in to form and kept reproducing the form throughout. The All Events result proves that. She established herself early on and maintained that position”.
Michael Muir would lose his first round matchup against Finland’s Mika Luoto in straight sets – 225-172 and 225-213.
“Mike did the job I expected him to do” stated Coach Jang. “He was selected because I knew he would be solid, as he was. He just couldn’t get that extra little bit of brilliance you need to medal at a World Championship but certainly acquitted himself well”.
Finishing in eighth place on the all events table, Andrew Thorpe began his master’s event in round 2. As luck would have it, Thorpe would be matched up against Team USA legend Parker Bohn III. Thorpe took the first game 264-237 before unfortunately losing the next two 235-196 and 245-220 in a tight affair.
“That’s what happens in match play” explained Coach Jang. “It’s just the luck of the draw of who you are matched up on and how that match transpires. Others on another pair can be winning their game with scores of 180 and then you get a matchup like Thorpe and Parker Bohn whose games are going in the 200’s. Both bowled great but unfortunately there is always only one winner”.
“Andrew was calm and collected throughout” described Coach Jang. ”Throughout his career he has produced these scores but never been on an international level and that was surprising for his first time. The ability to gather himself through the battles and game by game he got better and better. He really distinguished himself very well and it’s just unfortunate he couldn’t finish it off”.
The team result for the ladies would amazingly qualify three of the four bowlers (JB, Dodds, and Clark) for the master’s event. Dodds would be eliminated in the first round to Canadian Lisa Morabito in straight sets. Christine Clark would defeat American Tish Johnson in the first step 2-1 and advance to the second round where Jeanette Baker would also commence her master’s campaign.
Both matched up against Americans, Clark would lose in straight sets to eventual gold medallist Leanne Hulsenberg, with a close second game 228-227 in Hulsenbergs favour. Baker would win her first game against Lucy Sandelin before narrowly losing the next two, concluding Australia’s involvement in the tournament.
The Australians had two men and three women qualify for the master’s event. A feat that only Team USA would emulate. A testament to the consistent bowling showcased by the team throughout the event.
When asked what he was most proud of, Coach Jang explained it was the intangible asset of the Aussie spirit that stood out most.
“The whole team, the way they stood up and fought through everything, the way they conducted themselves throughout the entire event, which more than anything, contributed to the success” said Jang. “Of course there are highs and lows for everybody, but the real test of character is when things are not going well and to stand up and turn it around I am extremely happy and proud. I congratulate all the team members on their attitude and application. I couldn’t ask for anything more”.
After coaching and bowling on many trips in the past, Coach Jang was over the moon with how the team and event transpired admitting it was one of the most enjoyable trips he’s had the opportunity to be part of.
“Although it’s a World Championship, the seniors event, is much more social, much friendlier, much more enjoyable amongst the teams. They are there to have a great time which what make it such an enjoyable event” stated Coach Jang.
“Seniors just have that attitude. They wish to be competitive, but their main aim is to enjoy the occasion. Even when things go wrong, you don’t get so many sour grapes. People just say that’s the way it is, what we have to do, let’s go do it! It creates a much better atmosphere when you have that philosophy”.
“This all contributed to the success we had” explained a thankful Jang.
“Hopefully we can do it again at the next one!”.