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Sweden’s Niclas Lindholm shoots into lead at AIK International Tournament

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It took 18 squads and 454 players from 20 countries, but finally the 38th AIK International Tournament Powered by Track has a new qualifying leader.

Niclas Lindholm of Sweden averaged 246.33 in squad 20 of 23 early Saturday morning at Bowl-O-Rama in Stockholm, Sweden, improved his previous six-game series (1349) by 129 pins and moved to the top of the leaderboard with 1478 total.

Lindholm (pictured above) is a two-handed lefty like Jesper Svensson and comes from the same town and bowling center as the PBA star, yet is some years older. He had a solid start with games of 225 and 203 before he averaged 262.50 for the final four games (268, 244, 290 and 248) to overtake previous leader James Gruffman, Sweden, by 13 pins.

Gruffman (left), a one-time European Bowling Tour champion, who led the field since squad 2 on Dec. 26, slipped to second place with 1465. His compatriot Isabelle Hultin (right) is the best woman in the field in third place with 1463, also from squad 2.

One-time EBT champion Hadley Morgan (left) of England and Svensson, who at the age of 22 owns eight EBT titles along with seven Professional Bowlers Association titles, fell one spot to fourth and fifth place with 1458 and 1440, respectively.

Richard Teece (right) of England and Thomas Larsen of Denmark, both four-time winners on the EBT, led squad 17 to leap into sixth and seventh place in the overall standings.

Teece, the 2016 EBT men’s point ranking leader, toppled 1439 pins, including the fourth 300 of the tournament in game three. Larsen rolled six games between 213 and 258 for 1435 total.

Shalin Zulkifli (left), who won the gold medal in the five-player team event with the Malaysian women at the World Championships in Las Vegas last month, was next to Lindholm in squad 20 to crack the top 8, who will earn two byes and skip the semi-final round and the first round of the finals, with 1434, including 48 pins women’s handicap.

Shayna Ng (right) of Singapore, who won her second squad (no. 18) with 1386, slipped out of the top 8 to 9th place with her 1431 high series from squad 10.

Cajsa Wegner of Sweden rolled the third 300 game and the first by a woman in the first game of squad 17 and added games of 265, 200, 200, 180 and 219 for 1404 total, including 40 pins handicap (she did not receive handicap for the 300), good for 18th place overall.

Syafiq Ridhwan of Malaysia, who posted the second perfecto of the tournament in squad 14, led squad 16 on Friday morning with 1397 to sit in 23rd place. One-time EBT champion Daniel Fransson (left) paced squad 19 with 1393, to finish the penultimate qualifying day in 24th position.

Heading into the final qualifying day, Kevin Lindbladh of Sweden holds 38th place, the last spot to miss the semi-final round, with 1371 or an average of 228.50. Juuso Rikkola of Finland mans the 74th and last place to advance from the overall leaderboard with 1327 or an average of 221.17.

Qualifying commences on Saturday, January 6, with squads 21 and 22 scheduled to start at 8 and 11.30 a.m. and concludes with squad 23 slated for 3 p.m. Central European Time (CET). The semi-final round will start at 7 p.m.

The 38th AIK International Tournament Powered by Track, which will be held from December 26th through January 7th at 28-lane Bowl-O-Rama in Stockholm, Sweden, is the season-opening event of the 2018 European Bowling Tour.

A newcomer on the Tour, the “silver” level tournament offers total prize money of 475.000 Swedish Kronor (SEK), roughly 48.000 Euro or 57,000 U.S. Dollar, including extra prizes for women, seniors, juniors and under 200 average bowlers.

The champion will walk away with the 60.000 SEK top prize (6.070€ / $7,195), with 30.000 SEK going to the runner-up and 20.000 SEK to the third place finisher. Low to cash is 56th place, worth 4.500 SEK (455€ / $540).

Qualifying (six games, unlimited re-entries) begins Tuesday, Dec. 26, with squads 1 & 2 and concludes Saturday, Jan. 7, with squad 23.

Women will receive 8 pins handicap each game (up to 292 – maximum score is 300), an equality handicap provided to women in all EBT events.

Total 100 players will advance, including the top 74 in the overall qualifying standings, the top 4 “early birds” (squads 1-3), top 4 women, top 4 juniors (born in 1997 or later), top 4 seniors (born in 1968 or earlier) and top 4 bowlers with a certified average under 200, who are not among the top 74, plus the top 3 players each from Turbo G5 (highest qualifying game #5) and Turbo G6 (highest qualifying game #6).

The top 8 qualifiers go directly to Final Round 2, while qualifiers 9-38, the four “early birds” and the Turbo G5 and G6 leaders advance to Final Round 1. The remaining 56 finalists meet in the semi-final round on Saturday evening, Jan. 6, to bowl six games starting from scratch with the top 12 advancing to Final Round 1 on Sunday morning, Jan. 7.

Final Round 1 and 2 are also six-game rounds beginning from scratch (no carryover pins), which trim the field to 32 and then 16 players. Round 2 pins carry over to the finals.

Final Round 3 and 4 are four-game rounds after which the field is cut to the top 8 and then three players, who determine the champion in a stepladder final. No. 3 takes on no. 2 for the right to bowl the top-seed for the title.

The 2018 European Bowling Tour features 13 tournaments in 10 countries including two “platinum”, two “gold”, three “silver”, three “bronze” and three “satellite” events, which will offer total prize fund of more than 560.000 Euro.

The top 50 men and the top 50 women in each event receive ranking points. Those points will be tabulated throughout the season to determine the top 8 men and top 8 women, who will be eligible to compete in the 12th EBT Masters July 8, 2019 at Bowling Chamartín in Madrid, Spain.

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38th AIK International – Qualifying Standings after Squad 20/23

Players with position, country and 6-game total; women’s scores including 8 pins handicap each game. Top 74 qualifiers plus another 26 players will advance.

300 games (4) – Lukas Sevelin, Syafiq Ridhwan, Cajsa Wegner, Richard Teece.

Herbert Bickel

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