ARLINGTON, Texas - For the United States' four bowlers competing next week in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, the experience will be one they rarely get to enjoy while the expectations will be high.
Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, Bill O'Neill of Southampton, Pa., Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., and Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., will represent Team USA when the bowling competition at the Pan American Games begins Monday.
The four players will stay in the athlete village along with competitors in Olympic sports such as swimming, volleyball and gymnastics. That in itself makes the event unique for the bowlers.
"This event is the closest thing we have to being in the Olympics, so it is definitely special," said Kulick, who won a gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. "It's a very patriotic environment because we are sharing the athlete village with Team USA members from other sports. Everyone is there for the same reason - to do their best and bring home gold medals for our country."
The feeling of competing in an Olympic-style event will be new for only one of the Americans. This will be the first Pan American Games for O'Neill; Johnson and Barnes were both gold medalists in 1995 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"Going to the Pan Am Games is going to be pretty neat," O'Neill said. "It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's an Olympic setting, and I'm looking forward to watching some of the other sports as well."
Team USA will have history on its side when it competes against the best countries from the American Zone at Bolerama Tapatio in Guadalajara.
The Americans have won 17 of a possible 24 gold medals at the Pan American Games since it became a medal sport in 1991. The U.S. also has won five silver medals and four bronze medals for a total of 26 medals. Mexico is next on the medal chart with 13 total medals.
The Pan American Games consists of two medal events - doubles and singles. The doubles competition begins Monday with six games and concludes Tuesday with six more games. Medalists will be determined based on total pinfall after the 12 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. 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.
For coverage of the event once it begins, visit BOWL.com for stories, results and photos from Guadalajara.