Bronze Medal for Sue Abela in European Championship

Monday, September 5, 2011, 8:45

Sue Abela (left), alongside the 2011 ECC Ladies Champion, Krista Pollanen and England’s Lisa John, who also picked up a bronze medal in the finals

Year after year, Sue Abela continues to confirm her status as Malta’s most successful and prolific tenpin bowler on record, by adding further awards to her already substantial list of national and international honours. In keeping with her enviable track record, Sue’s latest success has come in the 2011 European Champions Cup, held in Lahti, Finland at the end of August, where she managed to walk off with an excellent bronze medal in the Ladies event.

Each year the Malta Tenpin Bowling Association sends its respective male and female National Champions to represent Malta in the ECC, which was attended this year by no less than forty European nations. This year’s male champion Neil Sullivan accompanied Abela to the Lahti event. The qualification system involves a total of 24 games, played on varied lane conditions (Short, Long and Combined), after which the top eight competitors from each category go through to the Knock-Out final stages.

Abela established herself as one of the front runners early on in the event, finishing the opening short-oil session in fifth place, with a sound 1550 total (193.8 ave), including three 200+ games, peaking with a 237. At that point Sue was some 156 pins down on the top seed, Sweden’s Joline Planefors.

The Maltese bowler improved slightly for a 1624 in the second long-oil session for a 3174 interim total (198.4 ave), but slipped to sixth placed as other competitors managed to improve through the field, although it was still the formidable Planefors on top, with 3388 pins (211.8 ave).

The tricky dual condition (short and long on each pair of lanes) would conclude the qualification stage. Abela was to begin this final session just 55 pins above the top eight cut, and so it was all still to play for. She retained her prior composure without any real setbacks, rolling a very good 1618 set for a 4792 qualifying total, which was enough to push Sue back up to fifth place, and into the final stages. Local girl Kritan Pollanen (FIN) overtook Joline Planefors to top the qualification, and the remaining six female finalists were: Planefors (SWE), Lisa John (ENG), Janie Gabel (GER), Isabelle Sacco (FRA), Alena Korobkova (RUS) and Georgia Sagona (GRE).

The KO final matches were all to be decided on a best-of-three basis, and having placed fifth, Abela was matched against Janine Gabel, who had qualified in fourth.  It was the German who took the lead with a 223 – 169 opening win, but then Abela responded with a narrower 183 – 193 game two equalizer, forcing the deciding third game. That turned out to be tighter still, but the Maltese champion just clinched it, 190 – 196, to advance to the semi-finals. There she would face top seed, Krista Pollanen, who was carrying the home advantage.

The match was to develop into the most thrilling of the entire final event. The Finnish bowler gained the early lead by winning the opener by the narrowest possible of margins, the game going right down to the wire with a 197 – 196 score line. As game two commenced, it seemed to be just a continuation of the stressful first game, with a very similar ending. This time, the Finn prevailed with a mere two pin advantage, the 194 – 192 result putting her into the final, and meaning Malta’s Sue Abela would claim bronze, after yet another fantastic sporting performance.

Spurred by her excruciatingly close victory over Abela, Pollanen then went on to meet number two seed, Joline Planefors from Sweden, who had disposed of Russian Alena Korobkova, and England’s Lisa John in the quarter and semi finals. The first final game was another close run thing, with Pollanen winning it 225 – 214. Then game two settled the match quite easily in favour of the home competitor, as Krista claimed the 2011 title in style with a big 267 game, against Planefors’ 203 effort, the latter settling for the silver medal position.

Malta’s male competitor, Neil Sullivan had rather a hard time on the Lahti lanes, finishing 20th among a very tough field of 40 European male national champions. His 4548 (189.5 ave) final total comprised a 1484 on the short condition, 1579 on the long, and 1485 on the combined lanes.

Sue Abela and Neil Sullivan were accompanied to the ECC by MTBA National Coach, Rick Vogelesang. Malta’s participation in the event was possible due to continued backing from KMS and the MOC, while training facilities prior to the ECC in Finland were provided by the Eden SuperBowl.

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