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Six Team USA men selected for 2017 World Championships


Chris Barnes recently was elected to the Professional Bowlers Association Hall of Fame, but he’ll soon turn his attention to a couple of opportunities that got away.

Barnes, a 47-year-old right-hander from Double Oak, Texas, will lead a group of six Team USA men into the 2017 World Bowling World Championships, set for Nov. 24-Dec. 4 at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas.

Joining Barnes is Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, South Carolina, Marshall Kent of Yakima, Washington, and a trio of World Championships first-timers – left-hander Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, and two-hander Chris Via of Springfield, Ohio.

The Team USA men will be focused on redemption after falling short in the coveted five-player team event in 2013 and 2014. Barnes hopes a combination of experience, versatility and depth will help them back to the top of the medal stand.

“I think what happened the last two times will keep us more focused and motivated for better results this year,” said Barnes, a 15-time Team USA member.

“We won three in a row then came up short, so we’ve worked even harder to be ready. Working together and communicating will help a lot during qualifying, and I think our depth will play into our favor with the Baker format, if we can advance to the semifinals.”

The Team USA men claimed the team gold medal in 2006, ending a 35-year drought, and they repeated in 2008 and 2010 with help from Barnes and Jones, once professionals were allowed to compete.

There also will be medals up for grabs in singles, doubles, trios, all-events and masters, with each event giving competitors a chance to gather more information and get more comfortable on the oil pattern.

Qualifying in singles, doubles, trios and team traditionally consists of six games. The top four then advance to the semifinals, with the winners moving on to gold-medal match.

At the 2014 World Bowling Men’s Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the Team USA men failed to earn any gold medals, fueling the desire for redemption on their home turf this time. They took home four silver medals (trios, team, all-events, masters) and a bronze medal (singles) in 2014.

Barnes, who finally feels fully recovered from a 2015 back surgery, doesn’t know how many more chances he’ll have to represent the United States on the world stage, if any, so he wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

The makeup of this year’s team is much different than when he made his own World Championships debut in 1995. Now, he is the veteran of a group that ranges in age from 47 to 23.

“The biggest difference is that the first time I went to the World Championships, we had a talented, but young, group that was inexperienced and had limited veteran leadership,” Barnes said. “Now, we have a diverse and versatile group with great chemistry, a high bowling IQ and more defined roles within the group.”

More than two decades after his debut, Barnes says his preparation for the event now is much more in-depth. Having competed at multiple World Championships, he hopes to pass on advice about what to expect and how to go about it.

Along with being the veterans of the group, the roles are further-defined for Barnes and Jones. Barnes has more of an eye for the technical aspects of things, while he considers Jones the glue of the group, keeping the team loose and energized.

The Team USA men recently spent a week together at the International Training and Research Center, where they worked together on and off the lanes to get ready for the World Championships.

They focused on team building and the mental part of the sport, and their World Championships-specific preparation included getting comfortable with the event’s format, pace of play, potential oil pattern and how it might break down based on what kind of equipment is used and how they can gather information as the tournament progresses, so they can get stronger each day.

The 2017 World Championships will be a combined men’s and women’s event, which happens every four years.

The 2013 World Championships at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nevada, also was a combined event. Korea won the team gold medal on the women’s side, and Finland downed Team USA for the men’s title.

This year’s event will feature one of the oil patterns from the bank of World Bowling lane conditions. The actual pattern will be announced on-site in Las Vegas.

The Team USA coaches for the 2017 World Championships will be head coach Rod Ross, Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O’Keefe and assistant coach Mark Baker.

“We were able to put together an extremely talented and diverse group this year, and their strengths definitely will complement each other on the lanes,” Ross said.

“During training camp, we worked on the physical, mental and strategic aspects of the game and event, and we feel very prepared. We’re also looking forward to competing in front of our hometown fans, so to speak.”

For more information on the World Bowling World Championships, click here.

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