By Griffin O’Hara
SOFIA, Bulgaria – The U.S. Bowling Team comes into the Deaflympics with an impressive legacy in international competition, with 24 medals over the past five Deaflympics, but the men struggled to uphold that legacy in doubles play Sunday at Mega Xtreme Bowling Center.
Johnny McLean started off the first doubles match strong, with a run of five straight strikes but struggled in subsequent matches.
The “second and third matches hurt,” McLean said.
McLean’s doubles partner Jerry Claborn also struggled and exhibited so much stress that teammate Robert Ellis commented, “I think Jerry is a bit stressed,” and added that he should relax.
The whole team appeared to have trouble relaxing, too, and overthought many of their games. McLean later rallied to a much-improved 1148; Claborn hung on to a 968 total; and the duo totaled 2116.
Fellow doubles team Robert Ellison and Joshua Dalton went into their match with high expectations of themselves, aiming for a total of 2400 points to ensure a top-six finish, Dalton said.
Dalton and Ellison, despite being calm in the beginning, also struggled with their first two games. Dalton began to find his groove in the second game, though, but wasn’t able to hold onto it with the lane switch.
Ellison broke out of his slump and played consistently, while Dalton rebounded in the final three games. Ellison finished with 1160, and Dalton had 1038, for a doubles total of 2198 points.
The matches were played on 40-foot lanes, which worked to the disadvantage of Korea, the U.S.’s biggest competitor, but the Germans appeared to take to the lanes well. Lanes of 40 feet are best suited to a stronger throw, while 45-foot lanes are better done with more finesse.
After yesterday’s singles, which marked Dalton’s international debut, he said the competition was “like a slap in the face. I was used to American competitions.”
However, he remained confident in his team.
Bowling coach Ed Abakumoff echoed that confidence in his team and his players’ ability to bounce back
“The spirit of this year’s team is a lot better than Taipei’s,” Abakumoff said.