FOR MORE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE 2019 WORLD BOWLING JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS TO BOWLING'S CHANCES OF INCLUSION IN THE 2024 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES IN PARIS, SEE OUR REPORT HERE: https://www.bowlersjournal.com/no-sleep-till-paris-bowling-targets-2024-summer-olympic-games/
ARLINGTON, Texas - The 2024 Summer Olympics still is a few years away, but sports fans in France soon will get their fix of top-level competition when the inaugural World Bowling Junior Championships heads their way in March.
The tournament will take place at the 28-lane Plaza Bowling Saint Maximin in Saint-Maximin, France, about 40 miles outside of Paris, from March 17-23.
More than 150 of the world's best young bowlers, age 18 and under, are expected to take part in the first edition of the event.
Among them will be a quartet of Junior Team USA members who will compete overseas for the first time - Mabel Cummins of Elburn, Illinois; Kamerin Peters of Toms River, New Jersey; Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; and Solomon Salama of Beverly Hills, California.
"It's going to be an honor competing in this event and getting to wear that Team USA jersey," said Neuer, a two-time member of Junior Team USA. "Being that it's the first time the tournament has been held will make it even more special, though I'm sure it won't really hit me until I'm sitting on the plane."
Each country will send two girls and two boys to compete in five disciplines - singles, doubles, mixed team, all-events and Masters.
The first three events each will feature six games, with the top four in each division advancing to their respective semifinals. Gold, silver and bronze all-events medals will be awarded in each division based on 18-game pinfall totals, and the top 24 girls and top 24 boys will advance to the Masters portion of the event.
"It honestly means the world to me to be able to represent the USA, and it's an honor to bowl with some of the best in the country," said Peters, a 16-year-old right-hander. "Being chosen to bowl at the World Championships in my first year on the team was shocking, yet exciting, news from (Junior Team USA head coach) Bryan (O'Keefe)."
Despite their ages, the members of Junior Team USA have competed, and found continued success, across the United States and on a variety of challenging lane conditions.
Though they won't know exactly what to expect when they hit the lanes in France, their invisible opponent, the oil pattern, has been narrowed to six possibilities.
Each year, World Bowling publishes a collection of oil patterns, so all bowlers can be familiar and prepared with what they might see at a World Bowling event. This year, the 12 patterns range from 36 to 44 feet and are divided into two six-pattern banks - Bank 30 and Bank 40.
It has been determined the 2019 World Bowling Junior Championships will feature a pattern from Bank 40, and the final selection will be revealed during the on-site managers' meeting.
Before O'Keefe can plan to help the young team get acclimated to competing nearly 5,000 miles from home, he'll assist with selecting the proper equipment for what they'll be facing at the event. Each bowler is allowed just six bowling balls.
"The Junior Team USA players may live all over the country, but they're always communicating and simultaneously working on the things that will make them better and make sure they're prepared for whatever competition we have coming up," O'Keefe said. "Technology allows us to keep in touch and even look in on their drills and practices. We also spend time talking about equipment and surface prep, so they'll have the right arsenal in their bags anytime they compete."
Progressing through the Team USA program, in all four cases through success at the Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite, the four Junior Team USA representatives already are very comfortable together on the lanes.
For Neuer and Salama, both 16-year-old left-handers and two-time Junior Gold champions, being friends and being familiar with each other's games should help enhance their experience and their performances at the World Junior Championships.
Also motivating them will be the pride of competing in such a significant event.
"I am aware that this event is important to the future of bowling as a worldwide sport, and I hope it shows people that bowling is a strenuous sport that requires endurance, mental prowess, discipline and imagination," Salama said. "When people watch me bowl this event, I want them not to only see my drive and competitiveness, but also to see that I carry myself with grace and cordiality."
But, as much as the World Bowling events are about competition, they also offer what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for competitors to experience an unfamiliar location and culture. They get to meet bowlers from different backgrounds and see how different and alike they are at the same time.
In 2018, the Team USA program was represented at international events in Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and at home in the United States.
This year will bring the team members to the Dominican Republic (Pan American Bowling Confederation Youth Championships), France (World Junior Championships), Peru (PABCON Men's Championships and Pan American Games), a to-be-determined location for the QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup and back to Las Vegas for the 2019 World Bowling Women's Championships and World Bowling Senior Championships.
For Cummins, a team gold medalist at the 2018 World Bowling Youth Championships in the Detroit area, traveling to France will offer an opportunity to test her skills in two areas - as a bowler and as a student who has spent two years learning French. She's looking forward to competing and serving as the team's spokesperson or translator, as needed.
"I know this event will provide great opportunities to meet new friends and be an ambassador for the sport of bowling, but I also plan to help my teammates earn recognition as the best youth bowlers in the world," said Cummins, a 16-year-old right-hander and two-time member of Junior Team USA. "I am very thankful for the USBC's support of youth bowling and Junior Team USA. The chance to compete in tournaments like the WJC is what motivates me to be the best I can be."
For more information about the 2019 World Junior Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.
For more information on Junior Team, visit BOWL.com/JuniorTeamUSA.