ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Team USA's Liz Johnson threw a lot of strikes this week at the 2015 World Bowling Women's Championships, but none were more meaningful than the 12 she tossed to help lift the United States past Korea for the team gold medal Saturday.
Johnson's perfect game in front of a packed house at Zayed Sports City's Khalifa International Bowling Centre, and live on BOWL.com's BowlTV, capped off Team USA's 1,168-1,060 win. The meeting was a rematch of the 2013 and 2009 gold-match matches, which Korea won handily.
"This was 100 percent a team effort, and it means a lot that we were able to accomplish what we came here to do," Johnson said. "We've worked hard all year, especially on the short patterns, and we knew we'd have to keep firing strikes to be successful today. We got what we wanted today, and shooting 300 just made it even better."
Team USA took advantage of Korea's early struggles to build a 40-pin lead after five frames and cruised to the win help from left-hander Shannon Pluhowsky (238), Shannon O'Keefe (214) and doubles gold medalists Kelly Kulick (214) and Danielle McEwan (202).
Stefanie Johnson didn't compete in the medal round, but helped Team USA advance during qualifying.
Five of Team USA's six team members were on-hand to bring the United States the team gold medal in 2011, its first win in the event since 1987, and McEwan was excited to contribute to the victory this year.
"We worked so well together today and kept each other balanced the whole way," said McEwan, a four-time Team USA member. "This is an absolutely unbelievable feeling and a dream come true. It was a goal of mine just to be on Team USA, and to be able to travel and win, is incredible."
Jung Dawun led the way for Korea in the loss with a 268 game. She entered the day as the only Korean bowler who didn't medal earlier in the week, and she threw 20 strikes in 23 opportunities during the team medal round.
Jung was joined by singles gold medalist Jeon Eunhee (212), Son Hyerin (209), Baek Seungja (199) and Kim Jinsun (172). Jung and Baek both were on the winning team at the 2013 tournament in Henderson, Nevada.
The win Saturday was the result of a lot of hard work for Team USA, which began almost immediately after the loss two years ago.
"We spent a lot of time reviewing our strengths and weaknesses after that loss in Las Vegas, and the girls did everything they could to be ready for this team event," said Team USA head coach, Rod Ross. "It was only fitting for us to be able to take on Korea and come away with the win on the short oil pattern."
The team final and both semifinal matches were contested on the 36-foot Los Angeles pattern, chosen by the higher seed in each match. Qualifying consisted of six games over two days, with three games on Los Angeles and three on the 43-foot Tokyo pattern.
In the semifinals, Team USA and Korea both led by nearly 40 pins halfway through.
Korea's Jung opened with 10 strikes, and her 289 set the pace for Korea in a clean 1,195-1,087 win against Germany. Jung was followed by Baek (248), Son (246), Kim (208) and Jeon (204).
McEwan, a World Championships first-timer, struck eight times to lead Team USA past Singapore, 1,105-1,026. O'Keefe added a 247 game and was followed by Johnson (218), Kulick (195) and Pluhowsky (193).
Earlier in the day during qualifying, Venezuela's Karen Marcano rolled the second perfect game of this year's World Championships to join her teammate Joan Gonzalez in the record books. Gonzalez shot 300 during doubles Thursday. Johnson's 300 in the team final was the 14th in tournament history.
Gold, silver and bronze all-events medals were awarded based on 24-game pinfall totals (six games of singles, doubles, trios and team), and the top 24 in the all-events standings have advanced to Masters competition which begins Sunday at 12 a.m. Eastern.
The all-events gold medal came down to the final shot of team event, with Johnson needing three strikes in her last frame after Singapore's Shayna Ng locked up at least a share of the gold with three strikes of her own. Johnson threw the first two and left a stone 8 pin on her final offering to leave her one pin short.
Ng finished the 24 games with a 5,587 pinfall total, a 232.79 average. Johnson earned the silver medal with a 5,586 total, and Korea's Jeon claimed the all-events bronze medal with 5,521.
The win marked the first World Women's Championships gold medal for Singapore.
"It has been a great week for Team Singapore, not just for me, because we made the semifinals in every event so far, and to finally get the gold medal after being close many times, is special," Ng said. "I knew roughly what the numbers were, but I told myself to take it one shot at a time. I finished first and knew I was guaranteed the gold medal, but I was ready to share it with Liz. She bowled so well, and I really felt for her when that pin didn't fall."
Pinfall carries forward, and all 24 remaining players will bowl six additional games Sunday morning to determine the top eight for round-robin match play. After seven games of match play, the field will be narrowed to the top four for Sunday's medal round.
All rounds of the 2015 World Women's Championships are being broadcast live on BOWL.com's BowlTV. For a complete schedule, visit BOWL.com/LiveStream.
There were 147 bowlers from 30 countries competing this week for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters match play.
Participating countries this year include: Australia, Bahamas, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United States, Venezuela and the host country United Arab Emirates.
For more information on the World Women's Championships, visit the official website of the event at 2015wwc.worldbowling.org.