2012 TENOVAR National Championships Mark Spiteri ends years long wait for glory

Thursday, May 31, 2012, 21:39

Sue Abela takes an incredible 18th National crown

Last week saw the 2012 TENOVAR National Championships, organised by the Malta Tenpin Bowling Association at the Eden SuperBowl , St. Julian’s. The Championships are the most prestigious event in the MTBA’s national bowling calendar, played to a gruelling format of 24 games over just three days. After a thrilling climax in the men’s division, Mark Spiteri ended his very long wait to claim his first National Champion title, while Sue Abela pulled off her eighteenth victory – an incredible achievement, unheard of in any sporting discipline.

The TENOVAR National Championships adopt a system of dual lane conditions, wherein two different lane oil patterns are applied. Day one was played on one particular pattern, with that used for day two being of a different shape, and slightly longer pattern length. The third and final session was then competed on ‘dual oil’, in that each pair of lanes was dressed with one pattern on the left lane, and the second pattern on the right hand lane, to really test the bowlers.

Men’s Division: Spiteri prevails in thrilling finish

Ray Falzon Reale was the early leader in the men’s competition, shooting an excellent 1749 over the initial eight-game session (218.6 ave), only dipping below the 200 mark in the last of the series, and shooting highs of 236, 233, 225, 224 and 227. He was a head of enthusiastic outsider, John Balani on 2693 pins, with Mark Spiteri and Kenneth Arpa bringing up the rear on 1686 and 1659 respectively.

Day two’s changed lane pattern proved to be a little more challenging with slightly lower scores in general for the men, but Falzon Reale managed to hold onto his lead, rolling a 1679 set, for a total of 3428 after sixteen (214.2 ave). John Balani slipped down to eighth place, replaced in second place by Kenneth Arpa whose 1674 series put him on 3333 pins, as Spiteri held onto third place with a 3313 tally after two days (207 ave).

3rd 300-Game for Caruana Scicluna – Young star, Justin Caruana Scicluna merited a very special day two mention, having shot right up from twelfth after a sub-par opening session, to fourth place after sixteen games thanks to an excellent 1782 set. After an inconsistent start, Caruana Scicluna then found his line to bowl a formidable 290 in his fourth game of the day (8-spare, followed by eleven straight strikes). As if that was not enough, Justin managed to go one better, or rather ten better in his penultimate game where he made it twelve solid strikes in a row, for a perfect 300-game, the third one of this future champion’s career to date.

Ray Falzon Reale’s 95-pin cushion was not guarantee at all, as the testing third and final session got underway, as the three top bowlers beneath him were all still very much in contention with eight games remaining. In fact, the sixteen game leader seemed to struggle on the dual patter, shooting a comparatively low 1416 to drop to fifth place and right out of the running.

Mark Spiteri, Justin Caruana Scicluna and Kenneth Arpa were left in a three way battle for the honours, and none of them disappointed the Monday night crowd that had gathered at the SuperBowl to watch the thrilling climax of this year’s TENOVAR Nationals. The threesome jostled for position throughout the evening, the lead changing hands between them as Falzon Reale slipped down the ranks. In the end, the men’s title was decided in the very last frames of the 24th and final game of the tournament.

A 234 closing game from Mark Spiteri, meant he managed to snatch victory from the hands of Justin Caruana who, after leading the field on 23 games, could only manage a 194 final effort. That allowed Spiteri to slip past him by a mere fourteen pins (4994 – 4981) to be crowned the new champion. Kenneth Arpa finished in the bronze position with a 4971 total.

Ladies’ Division: 18th Title for ‘unstoppable’ Abela

It may be said that nobody else stood a chance in the Ladies Division of the TENOVAR National Championships, as Sue Abela took the lead with her opening game of 225, ahead of Tiziana Carannante on 193. Abela continued to look back at the other competitors as the session progressed, finishing the day on 1677 pins (209.6 ave), well up on second placed Melissa Swift (1501), and Joanna Attard who was fourth on 1477.

It was more of the same on day two although, as in the men’s event, the level was a little lower on the changed oil pattern. Abela went in on 3247 for sixteen games (202.9 ave), while Attard improved a position to second with 2999, switching places with Swift who lay in third on 2827.

Going into day three no less than 248 ahead of the field, it was going to be extremely tough to catch Sue Abela, Malta’s most prolific and successful tenpin bowler of all time. After a brace of shaky opening games (169, 172), Abela then seemed to find the knack when it came to the dual oil condition, and settled into a better scoring pace, peaking with high games of 220 and 234 for a 1554 session, and a 4801 title winning total (200.0 ave).

Joanna Attard held on to second place with a very good 4487 scorem 198 ahead of Melissa Swift, who held onto the third spot with 4289 pins.

Other than their much coveted titles, the two new TENOVAR National Champions have earned the chance to represent Malta in this year’s European Champions Cup, to be held in The Hague (Netherlands) 15 – 22 October.


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