GUADALAJARA, Mexico - The United States swept the doubles gold medals Tuesday in the opening event of bowling at the 2011 Pan American Games.
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, and Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., topped the men's field by 193 pins, while Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., and Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., easily won the women's event by 328 pins at Bolerama Tapatio.
"They fought and ground it out from the first ball of the first game," Team USA head coach Rod Ross said. "Even though the margin of victory may appear large, it was a difficult victory. This is a very strong field with some very talented bowlers."
Barnes and O'Neill finished with a 12-game total of 5,211 to claim the victory. Barnes led the way with 2,698 (224.8 average), while O'Neill shot 2,513 (209.4 average). Venezuela took the silver with 5,018, while Colombia earned bronze with 4,856.
The American men got off to a hot start in the first game Tuesday, opening with a score of 515 to give them some breathing room.
"Even though as a team I don't think we had our best performance of the year, in the end we bowled well when we needed to," Barnes said. "By getting off to the solid start, it gave us a big lead. But we may have gotten just a little too relaxed and into a holding pattern and didn't bowl great down the stretch."
O'Neill was disappointed in his individual performance Tuesday after bowling games of 149 and 166 in the six-game block, but said he was fortunate Barnes was able to get lined up and throw strikes.
"It's a great feeling to win the gold medal, but part of me wishes I could have done more to help Chris out," O'Neill said. "This was one of my worst performances in a long time, but luckily my teammate was there to pick me up and carry us to the gold."
Kulick and Johnson led the women's doubles from the first game Monday and never looked back. Their lead was never less than 250 pins on Tuesday, and they finished with a 12-game total of 5,257. Mexico took the silver medal with 4,929, while Colombia earned bronze with 4,851.
Johnson led the pair with 2,633 (219.4 average), while Kulick finished with 2,624 (218.7 average).
"Just to be recognized with the Olympic sports here at the Pan American Games is a great feeling," Kulick said. "Any U.S. athlete who walks around with a gold medal around their neck is respected, and that's a really nice feeling."
Over the course of the 12 games, the Team USA women never threw a game under 190. Johnson said staying consistent and filling frames helped propel them to the victory.
"We both had a good look and continued to make great shots today," Johnson said. "We worked very well together, and it was an honor just to share this victory with Kelly."
Action now shifts to singles, which is the final event of the Pan American Games. In the singles event, 12 games of qualifying will take place Wednesday and the field will be cut to the top 16 bowlers in each division for match play Thursday. In the opening round and the quarterfinals, matches will be three games with the highest pinfall advancing. For the semifinals and finals, the action will shift to best-of-three matches.
Held every four years, the Pan American Games are the second-largest multi-sport event after the Olympic Games. This year, nearly 6,000 athletes from the American Zone are competing in 36 sports.
2011 PAN AMERICAN GAMES
(At Bolerama Tapatio, Guadalajara, Mexico)
DOUBLES (12 games)
GOLD - Chris Barnes/Bill O'Neill, United States, 5,211
SILVER - Jose Lander/Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 5,018
BRONZE - Santiago Mejia/Andres Gomez, Colombia, 4,856
4, Brazil, 4,835. 5, Canada, 4,797. 6 (tie), Puerto Rico and Mexico, 4,778. 8, Dominican Republic, 4,739. 9, Ecuador, 4,674. 10, Costa Rica, 4664. 11, Panama, 4,544. 12, Bermuda, 4538. 13, Guatemala, 4,511. 14, Peru, 4,358. 15, Bolivia, 4,325. 16, El Salvador, 4,279.
GOLD - Liz Johnson/Kelly Kulick, United States, 5,257
SILVER - Sandra Gongora/Aseret Zetter, Mexico, 4,929
BRONZE - Anggie Ramirez/Maria Jose Rodriguez, Colombia, 4,851
4, Canada, 4,827. 5, Venezuela, 4,813. 6, Dominican Republic, 4,586. 7, Guatemala, 4,577. 8, Chile, 4,464. 9, Aruba, 4,446. 10, Brazil, 4,437. 11, Puerto Rico, 4,265. 12, Costa Rica, 4,253. 13, Peru, 4,180. 14, El Salvador, 4,116. 15, Bermuda, 4,003. 16, Bahamas, 3,784.