Team Malta selected for San Marino

Thursday, February 16, 2012, 11:43

April 16th – 22nd will see the XV Mediterranean Challenge Cup, to be held at the Rose ‘n Bowl in San Marino. Malta has been represented in these Championships since the very first edition and this year will be no exception. The national qualifying tournament has been held at the Eden SuperBowl to decide the four-man team of two male and two female bowlers, and the successful participants after three days and a total of 24 games were: Justin Caruana Scicluna, Mark Spiteri, Sue Abela and Melissa Swift.

Men’s Division: Caruana Scicluna and Spiteri duel for top spot

Day one meant the first of three eight game sessions in this annual event, which is competed to the simple, yet tried and tested format of highest pinfall totals from all 24 games, on a scratch basis. In the men’s section, the youthful Justin Caruana Scicluna got off to a flying start, with an opening brace of 223 and 277. Other highs of 225 and 234 helped Justin on to a leading tally of 1764 (220.5 average) after eight. Kenneth Arpa was second on 1739, partly thanks to a massive 290 in game four, while Mark Spiteri lay in third place on 1693, having dipped below the 200 mark in three of his eight games.

The pace at the top was just a little more subdued on day two for games 9 – 16, and a 1677 series was enough to put Spiteri on top on 3370 (210.6 ave), his second session featured high games of 222 and 223, peaking at 268. Caruana Scicluna dropped to second place after his 1586 middle series, including 233, 234 and 242 efforts, a mere 20 pins behind on 3350 after sixteen, and 2011 winner Neil Sullivan took third on 3284, after a solid 1729 performance featuring a 256, a 231 and a 236. Kenneth Arpa slipped to fourth on 3272 pins.

The decisive third and final session saw an incredible performance from Justin Caruana Scicluna who never shot below the 200 mark all day (low game 208). A 259 opener, no less than four 234 games, topped off with a 217 and a 233 meant a stunning 1853 for the day (231.6 average for eight), and a tournament winning total of 5203 (216.7). Mark Spiteri claimed the second qualifying spot having done his best to keep up with young star Caruana Scicluna, but he got of to a shaky start with an opening game of 168. Much better efforts including a 240, a 236 and a 236 helped Spiteri construct a 1705 total over eight, and a final tally of 5075 (211.4 ave). Neil Sullivan stayed on 4828, while Rankin Camilleri improved to fourth on day three (4807 total).

Ladies’ Division: Sue Abela and Melissa Swift claim honours

Malta’s longstanding National Champion has become something of a permanent fixture in the Mediterranean Challenge Cup, and she has once again booked her place in the upcoming edition in San Marino by winning this year’s ladies’ qualifier, and she will be joined by Melissa Swift who will be embarking on her first ever Medicup experience.

Abela appeared a little out of sorts during the opening session of the ladies’ event, uncharacteristically rolling a 1490 set (186.2 ave) which put her in second place, while Melissa Swift occupied the top spot after her 1576 series (197 ave) which included highs of 212, 234 and 243. Nobody really expected Abela’s scoring lull to last for the duration, and sure enough she was back to form on day two, shooting 1644 pins over eight, to snatch the sixteen game lead on 3134 pins (195.8 ave). Sue’s best efforts of the day were an opening 247 and a great 253 in game fourteen. Melissa Swift put in a 1486 over eight, going second on a 3062 interim total (191.3).

Day three began well for leader Abela, who banged in a front four of 258-200-200-190, to set the tone for the rest of the session. A 1531 for the day made sure of the top spot Sue (4665, 194.3 ave), while Melissa held on to second place with 1477 from games 17 – 24, and a final total of 4539 (189.1). third place went to Joanna Attard (4348, 189.1), while 2011 qualifier Tiziana Carannante finished in fourth place (4258, 177.4).

Our bowlers’ phenomenal success in the Mediterranean Challenge Cup has been well documented, not least of all that of Sue Abela who has consistently given brilliant performances in both individual and also team events over the years. Indeed, after fourteen editions of these regional championships, Malta remains atop the medals list, boasting a total of 29 gold medal awards, ahead of main competitors, Greece on 25, and Italy back in third on 12 golds.

The XV MCC in San Marino will comprise  four separate qualifying events, those being Singles, Doubles (male and female categories), Mixed Doubles and 4-man team. Bowlers’ individual achievements from those four events will decide the qualifiers for the final ‘Masters’ event, wherein the top eight bowlers from the male and female divisions will play in a knock-out final, to decide the highest championship honours.

To date, twelve nations have registered to take part in the XV Mediterranean Challenge Cup, namely: Host nation San Marino, Catalonia, Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Tunisia and Turkey.

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