Special Olympics part of USBC Open Championships tradition for 17th year


    United States

    National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nev. (Feb. 17 - June 30, 2007)

    2007USBCOpenChampionshipLogo.jpg In what has become a United States Bowling Congress Open Championships tradition, the Special Olympics National Unified Bowling Tournament was conducted on the tournament lanes for the 17th time as a prelude to the opening of the 2007 USBC Open Championships.

    Nearly 500 bowlers (124 four-players teams) representing 13 states competed in team and doubles competition Thursday and Friday at the National Bowling Stadium, where the Open Championships will kick off on Saturday.

    Each team paired two Special Olympians with unified partners. The Special Olympics bowlers in this year's competition are 16 years of age and older and were accompanied by parents, friends and coaches. They competed for medals and ribbons in 21 average divisions in team and 43 doubles divisions.

    "We're ecstatic," said Helena Schneider of Cincinnati, who with her 24-year-old daughter Jennifer earned a gold medal in doubles. "We've been bowling in Special Olympics competition for four years and to finally be able to come to the championships is a thrill for us. We're going to wear our medals proudly when we get back home to bowl league."

    Bowling is becoming more and more popular with Special Olympics athletes according to Special Olympics Unified Tournament Director Marty Allen who has served in that post since 1991 in Toledo, Ohio.

    "This event has really grown over the years," Allen said. "Bowling is a close second behind track and field in popularity, but it won't be long before it takes over the top spot because bowling is year round and it lasts for a lifetime.

    "We always look forward to coming to Reno," Allen added. "The National Bowling Stadium is a tremendous facility. It's always a thrill for us and we are very appreciative of USBC enabling us to have our championships in such a great stadium setting."

    This year's crop of Special Olympians represented Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

    The Special Olympics Unified Bowling Tournament was just one of the events that took place at the National Bowling Stadium this week to help usher in the Open Championships.

    The week began with three small sweeper tournaments that helped test the Stadium's new scoring system, while Bowlfest, a special event featuring some of bowling biggest stars doing trick shots and a series of exhibition matches, helped celebrate the return of the tournament to Reno for a record eighth time.

    The Open Championships officially begins its 135-day run Saturday with a ribbon cutting, Mass Ball Shot Ceremony and the tournament's opening squad at 1:30 p.m. During the mass ball shot, one bowler on each lane will roll a ball at the same time. All five members of each team will have the opportunity to participate in this ceremony.

    At 7 p.m., the tournament's second squad of the day will take to the lanes following an official opening ceremony. The ceremony will include a few words from bowling and local dignitaries. A "Joe Bowler" will be selected to throw the first ball.

    During the coming months, more than 16,000 five-player teams will make their way to Reno to compete in team, doubles and singles before the tournament concludes on July 1.

    Presenting sponsors for the 2007 USBC Open Championships are Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus Hotel/Casinos in Reno, Nev. Other participating sponsors are Kegel, official lane maintenance provider, Sands Regency Casino and Hotel, official brackets sponsor and supporting sponsors Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa and Harrah's Casino and Hotel.