Japan, Norway Win Singles at 2018 World Youth Championships

by Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications 0

ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Singles competition concluded Saturday at the 2018 World Bowling Youth Championships, and both title matches were decided in the final frame.

In the girls final, Japan's Nanami Irie struggled to find the pocket early in the match and was down nearly 30 pins after five frames, before rallying to a 181-179 win over Junior Team USA's Caitlyn Johnson.

On the boys side, Georg Skryten of Norway struck once in the first nine frames of the title tilt but doubled in the 10th frame to claim the gold medal by a 181-176 margin against top seed Danylo Yatsko of Ukraine.

For Johnson, a 19-year-old right-hander, the past two seasons have been filled with close calls in top-tier events, but she's still looking for her breakthrough performance.

In 2017, she helped Webber International to a runner-up finish at the Intercollegiate Team Championships and then went on to finish second in the 20-and-under division at the 2017 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International. Later in the summer, she just missed the top 10 at the U.S. Women's Open.

Against Irie at Thunderbowl Lanes on Saturday, Johnson started the match with a double, while Irie missed the headpin to the right on her first three offerings, followed by a 4-6-7-9-10 split in the fourth frame.

Johnson saw her lead shrink and then turn into a two-pin deficit as she searched for a consistent reaction on the right lane of the championship pair - the lane on which she was going to finish the match.

In the back-and-forth final frame, Irie, a 21-year-old right-hander, had an opportunity to lock up the win with a double. When she left a 10 pin on her first shot, Johnson had a chance to double for the victory on the lane that hadn't yielded more than seven pins since her second-frame strike.

Johnson's own 10 pin left Irie needing nine pins on her fill ball to win the gold medal. When she left the 3-6 combination, Johnson had the opportunity to make her spare and tie the game with a strike on her fill ball. She left the 8-10 split on her final shot to fall short in her first international medal round.

"Overall, I felt like I threw good shots, I'm happy with the way I bowled and I did my best to control what I could control, which included the approach and my emotions, even though I felt anxious and nervous going into the medal round," said Johnson, a first-year member of Junior Team USA. "I have been working a lot on my game, versatility, hand positions and equipment choices, and it may not have been enough to win this time, but if I can keep putting myself in position, eventually the pins will fall my way."

Johnson's path to the final included a 238-201 semifinal win against top-seeded Juliana Botero of Colombia. Johnson struck five times in the first six frames, and nine times overall, in the victory.

Irie earned the meeting with Johnson by defeating Junior Team USA veteran Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina, 246-229. Both players were clean in the match, but four consecutive strikes from Irie in frames five through eight proved to be the difference.

"We didn't win today, but we learned a lot about the lanes and how our equipment was working, and it kept us really connected as a team, especially as we were pushing for each other to win," said Clemmer, a five-time member of Junior Team USA, also participating in her first World Youth Championships. "I think today gave us a nice look at what the week can be, and I feel like we have some momentum going into doubles. My goal coming in was to medal in every event, and this is a great start."

In the boys final, it took four frames to see the first strike of the match, and Skryten's  clutch double in the 10th frame earned Norway its first singles gold medal in World Youth Championships competition.

The country's only other gold-medal effort came in the Masters event at the 2006 tournament in Berlin, and Norway last medaled in 2008.

"In the beginning, I struggled to find the right ball reaction, and I threw a couple of bad shots," Skryten said. "In the final frame, I was thinking about all the practice I did for this tournament, and I was focused on taking it one shot at a time. I threw really good shots when I needed them, and I'm so happy for this win. It means so much to me for my first time at this event, and it is amazing to win for my country."

Skryten, an 18-year-old right-hander, rolled one of the two perfect games during Friday's qualifying round, also the first of his bowling career, and he hoped that momentum would carry into Saturday's championship round.

On the way to the boys final, Skryten struck six times in a 227-166 win over Sweden's Alfred Berggren, while Yatsko, an 18-year-old two-hander, tossed seven strikes of his own in a 232-197 win against Abdulrahman Alkheliwi of Saudi Arabia.

The competitors at the 2018 World Youth Championships will be back on the lanes Sunday and Monday for doubles qualifying, and the coveted team titles will be on the line Tuesday and Wednesday. The event's top performers will advance to Masters match play Wednesday and Thursday.

The event is held every two years, and the 2018 edition has brought more than 200 competitors from 37 countries to the Detroit area to bowl for medals in singles, doubles, team, all-events and Masters competition.

World Bowling is providing livestream coverage of the event, and bowling fans from around the globe will be able to watch the competition live from start to finish. Coverage will include all qualifying, semifinal and final rounds.

For more information on the 2018 World Youth Championships or to watch the livestream, visit 2018WYC.WorldBowling.org.

United States Bowling Congress
The United States Bowling Congress serves as the national governing body of bowling as recognized by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). USBC conducts championship events nationwide including the largest participation sporting events in the world - the USBC Open and Women's Championships - and professional events such as the USBC Masters and USBC Queens.

Founded in 1895, today USBC and its 2,000 state and local associations proudly serve more than a million members. USBC is headquartered in Arlington, Texas, working toward a future for the sport. The online home for USBC is BOWL.com.

2018 WORLD BOWLING YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Thunderbowl Lanes
Allen Park, Mich.

Saturday's results

GIRLS

CHAMPIONSHIP
(Winner earns gold, loser gets silver)

Nanami Irie, Japan, def. Caitlyn Johnson, United States, 181-179.

SEMIFINALS
(Winners advance, losers tie for bronze)

Johnson def. Juliana Botero, Colombia, 238-201.
Irie def. Breanna Clemmer, United States, 246-229.

BOYS

CHAMPIONSHIP
(Winner earns gold, loser gets silver)

George Skryten, Norway, def. Danylo Yatsko, Ukraine, 181-176.

SEMIFINALS
(Winners advance, losers tie for bronze)

Yatsko def. Abdulrahman Alkheliwi, Saudi Arabia, 232-197.
Skryten def. Alfred Berggren, Sweden, 227-166.

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