Team USA will feature a mix of newcomers and veterans when the four-member bowling team takes part in the Pan American Games in Toronto this week.
Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, Devin Bidwell of Wichita, Kan., and Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, S.C., will represent the United States in what is considered the most important event in the four-year cycle of the Team USA bowling program
The bowling portion of the quadrennial event starts Wednesday at the Pan Am Bowling Centre with doubles competition and will conclude with the singles medal round on Saturday. A total of 56 athletes, 28 men and 28 women, will compete.
For Bidwell, the Pan American Games marks his first international appearance for Team USA, though he did compete in the 2010 World Bowling Youth Championships as a member of Junior Team USA.
“The person and bowler I am today is a complete 540 – you know, a 180 with an extra spin – from who I was when on Junior Team USA,” Bidwell said. “I didn’t understand the magnitude of the Pan Am Games until a couple of months after qualifying for them. I’m humbled by the opportunity and I'll likely be humbled over and over again throughout the week.”
While Jones, an eight-time Team USA member who has won more than 20 medals in international competitions, also will be competing in his first Pan American Games, Johnson and Pluhowsky are veterans of the event.
Johnson is the defending champion in singles and doubles, and will be competing in her third Pan American Games. She also won gold in all-events and silver in team at the 1995 Pan American Games in Argentina.
“I am definitely looking forward to defending the titles in Toronto,” said Johnson, the 2015 USBC Queens champion. “It’s a stepping stone into the Olympics and you get to compete in a surrounding with other athletes, not just bowlers. This is my third Pan Am Games, so I am very proud of that. It’s hard to believe my first Pan Am Games was 20 years ago; I can remember it like it was yesterday."
Pluhowsky, who won the Team USA Trials for a record fifth time in January, is a 15-year Team USA member. At the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic, she won gold in singles and silver in doubles.
The Pan American Games bowling competition in Toronto starts with six games of doubles competition on Wednesday. Doubles concludes Thursday with six more games, when medalists will be determined on total pinfall after the 12 games.
In the singles competition, 12 games of qualifying will take place Friday before the field is cut to the top eight bowlers in each division for match play. Bowlers will take their pinfall totals into match play, which will consist of one-game matches with the winner receiving 20 bonus pins. The top four bowlers after match play advance to the semifinals and finals.
Team USA has won 20 of a possible 28 gold medals, six silver medals and four bronze medals at the Pan American Games.
The Pan American Games will have more than 6,100 athletes competing in 364 medal events over 20 days of competition. The Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), which is affiliated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), governs the Pan American Games, the second-largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. Go to Toronto2015.org to learn more about the Pan American Games.
Visit BOWL.com for stories and results of Team USA at the Pan American Games in Toronto, and be sure to check out the September issue of BJI for full coverage and comments from Team USA players and coaches.