Star-Studded Team USA to Compete in Puerto Rico
ARLINGTON, Texas - When Bill O'Neill began bowling at the high school level, he set a goal of one day competing for Team USA. He will get that chance next week when he takes to the lanes at the 2009 Pan American Bowling Confederation Championships in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
O'Neill leads a star-studded field of the country's top bowlers into an event they have dominated in recent years. Team USA's men and women enter as the defending champions in every event - singles, doubles, trios, team, all-events and Masters.
The PABCON Championships will feature both men and women this year for the first time since 2005. In 2007, the men held their championships in Guatemala, and the United States captured every gold medal. Last year in Chile, the Team USA women dominated every event.
So if there wasn't already pressure on O'Neill in his first Team USA event, he knows all expectations will be for the United States to continue its recent success.
"Competing for Team USA has been something I have wanted to do since I started bowling in high school," said O'Neill, who was selected to the team in January by the Team USA coaching staff. "No matter what sport you play, representing your country is something that is a real honor, and I can't wait to put on that Team USA shirt and get down to business."
O'Neill, who will be joined on the men's side by fellow Professional Bowlers Association exempt players Patrick Allen, Tommy Jones, Chris Barnes, Cassidy Schaub and amateur David Haynes, realizes there's pressure on the team to bring home gold medals.
"I always feel pressure going into any event regardless of what it is, but once the event begins that goes away for me," O'Neill said. "Once I am able to get on the lanes, I trust my ability to get the job done. Hopefully, in this event, that means multiple gold medals."
The event also marks a return to team play for O'Neill, who was a standout player at Saginaw Valley State University earlier this decade.
"It has been over five years since I have been able to compete as part of a team, and it is something that I really miss," said O'Neill, 27, a four-time first team collegiate All-American. "I really enjoy the feeling of doing something good and looking back and seeing a bunch of happy faces. It also adds a lot of pressure knowing if you don't perform, you are letting an entire team down, which makes you a stronger individual bowler."
On the women's side, Team USA will send Carolyn Dorin-Ballard, Kim Terrell-Kearney, Diandra Asbaty, Lynda Barnes, Shannon O'Keefe and Shannon Pluhowsky.
Both the men's and women's teams will look to add to their medal counts at the PABCON Championships. Dating to 1961, Team USA has brought home 88 gold medals, 54 silver medals and 43 bronze medals for a total of 185. Mexico has the second-most with 94 total medals.
Competition is scheduled to begin Tuesday with singles and continues through Sept. 26 with the Masters competition, which features the top 16 men and top 16 women from the all-events standings.
The United States Bowling Congress is planning to provide live Web streaming of portions of the event throughout the week. For more details and specific live streaming schedules, visit BOWL.com during the PABCON Championships.
By Lucas Wiseman