Bowled over

Bowled over

Each article in the series "Sporting Snapshots" sets out to showcase a TWG sport in its own environment, bringing to light some of the sport's special features and leading personalities. In this first article Brian Salmon has visited the Weber Cup in Bowling in Milton Keynes, Great Britain.

Despite being founded only in the second half of the 20th Century, the English town of Milton Keynes has had an interesting existence. It is renowned as being the place where brainy code-breakers deciphered the secret messages sent by U-boat commanders in the Second World War. It is the home town for the Open University, Britain's largest educational establishment. Then there is the unique cultural contribution; what at first sight appears to be a herd of cattle grazing in the field, turns out on closer inspection to be a collection of concrete statues. The quirky town has another claim to fame: the place with the most traffic roundabouts in the UK. Motorists approaching any junction in Milton Keynes will be directed by a sign depicting a circle containing a small gap. The effect on a visitor to the town is that they have stumbled upon a shrine dedicated to the ten-pin bowling ball.

There could therefore be no better location to host the Weber Cup, a team competition that attracts some of the world's leading bowlers. The format for the tournament mirrors that of golf's legendary Ryder Cup. It is USA v Europe in a three-day quest for continental superiority, with fixtures requiring both teamwork and individual brilliance. Named after renowned American bowler Dick Weber, the cup represents the ultimate test of focus and resilience. Europe started the favourites, courtesy of five straight victories in the annual competition, but USA were due for a win.

The team line-ups reflected the contrasting continental fortunes of the most recent editions. The blue flag with yellow stars had seasoned campaigners looking to replicate their previous triumphs, whilst the Stars and Stripes turned to untried youthful exuberance to reverse their fortunes. It quickly becomes apparent that subtlety is not a core value in bowling. Players wear garish polo shirts of assorted hues that would attract envy even from Joseph. owner of the Techni-coloured Dreamcoat. The Europe Captain in his stock-trading days was known as Dominic Barrett. When he turned pro and won the World Championship, he emerged as Dom Barrett, "The Dominator". Fellow Englishman Stuart Williamsnaturally became "Beef Stu". The Americans got around the problem of unnecessary syllables by only selecting players with short names. Thus veteran Chris Barnesand extrovert newcomer Kyle Troupwere automatic picks, as was Tommy Jones. The most contentious selection was Anthony Simonsen, but it was felt that his amazing skills more than made up for the inability to fit his name on the shirt!

USA skipper Chris Barnes is a tall, genial man who has won countless tournaments on the PBA Pro tour. He has been there, done that, and got the brightly coloured shirt. Like so many other successful bowlers, he graduated from Wichita State University in Kansas. The university's bowling team is the most feared on the college circuit, and is also an ‘official supplier’ of champions of The World Games. Kelly Kulick studied there, and her gold medal in Ca!i, Colombia plus three silvers from the last two editions make her the most frequent visitor to the bowling podium at The World Games. Kelly is an American who claimed gold in Colombia. Her fellow Wichita State graduates Clara Guerrero and Rocio Restreppo hail from the coffee-growing country, and will be hoping that a transfer of precious metals will occur in the reverse direction, when The World Games returns to American soil for the first time since the inaugural edition in Santa Clara in 1981. Birmingham, Alabama is within driving distance of Kansas and the Colombian pair will be hoping that when bowling returns home in 2021, they will be able to defend the doubles title they won in Wroclaw.

Although Europe started the Weber Cup brightly with a win in the first team match, the USA selection appeared totally justified as a hot streak saw them take the next five points. Jesper Svensson, one of two Swedes in the Europe line-up alongside Martin Larsen, restored European pride with an edgy triumph over Kyle Troup in the Fans Choice match, both players topping the online poll of bowling enthusiasts. American dominance in the next two sessions saw them establish a formidable 14-5 lead. In the clash of the skippers, The Dominator was just two pins short of bowling the perfect 300 game. In the next match, the Captain's Choice, the European selection was widely expected to be Svensson, however Dom surprised everyone by picking D. Barrett. His confidence in himself was not misplaced, as he won a roll-off against Simonsen.

The final day of the Weber Cup and a late afternoon rally saw Europe just avoid the ignominy of the match being ended a session early. If there was going to be an unlikely European comeback in the evening, it would be a Dom Barrett inspired one, the skipper again selecting himself for three of the first four scheduled matches. But first there was the giant hurdle to overcome of MVP Kyle Troup. The distinctive American bowler with his giant afro and bright Stars and Stripes trousers, looks like he has just completed filming a commercial for a well-known hamburger restaurant. Unmissable in appearance, and unmissable with a bowling ball. Virtually every time that he used his high backswing and booming swerve, ten pins would go flying. After five barren years, Chris Barnes savoured lifting the Weber Cup above his head one more time.

As you exit the final roundabout in Milton Keynes, you drive past an enormous warehouse belonging to internet giant Amazon. This appeared highly appropriate, as the American team had delivered what they wanted.

Brian Salmon for The World Games

 The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.

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