Four of the world’s best bowlers showed why Tuesday when the Team USA members combined to win both the men’s and women’s doubles gold medals in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, joined Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., in capturing the men’s title while Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., and Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., won the women’s event at Bolerama Tapatio. Barnes and O’Neill were 193 pins over their nearest competitors while Johnson and Kulick topped the field by 328 pins.
“They fought and ground it out from the first ball of the first game,” Team USA head coach Rod Ross told bowl.com. “Even though the margin of victory may appear large, it was a difficult victory. This is a very strong field with some very talented bowlers.”
Barnes and O’Neill finished with a 12-game total of 5,211. Barnes led the way with 2,698 (224.8 average), while O’Neill shot 2,513 (209.4 average). Venezuela took the silver with 5,018, while Colombia earned bronze with 4,856.
“Even though as a team I don’t think we had our best performance of the year, in the end we bowled well when we needed to,” said Barnes, who helped his team off to a 515 first game Monday. “By getting off to the solid start, it gave us a big lead. But we may have gotten just a little too relaxed and into a holding pattern and didn’t bowl great down the stretch.”
“It’s a great feeling to win the gold medal, but part of me wishes I could have done more to help Chris out,” O’Neill said. “This was one of my worst performances in a long time, but luckily my teammate was there to pick me up and carry us to the gold.”
Kulick and Johnson led the women’s doubles from start to finish. They never led by less than 250 pins Tuesday finishing with 5,257. Mexico took the silver medal with 4,929 while Colombia earned bronze with 4,851.
Johnson led Team USA with 2,633 (219.4 average), while Kulick finished with 2,624 (218.7 average).
“Just to be recognized with the Olympic sports here at the Pan American Games is a great feeling,” Kulick said. “Any U.S. athlete who walks around with a gold medal around their neck is respected, and that’s a really nice feeling.”
Competition resumes Wednesday with 12 games of singles. The top 16 male and female finishers advance to match play with the first round and quarterfinals being three-game total pin series and the semifinals and finals in a best-of-three format.
The Pan American Games are held every four years and are the second-largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. This year, nearly 6,000 athletes from the American Zone (North, Central and South America) are competing in 36 sports.