Days Four and Five
December 2-3, 2011
So, a week before I came to the World Cup I made a pretty significant change in my game. I went to 4 steps. For the first time ever. Was it a big risk? Yes. But, I've learned in my 31 years of living that big risks pay off. So, I committed to it.
Why? For a few reasons. Although I know in my 5 step approach I should push on the 2nd step, it's still tricky to get those to work together. Yes, I've practiced and practiced. So, when I was in Japan, I noticed a Japanese bowler in the stepladder that had a great simple game. With 4 steps. She made it look effortless, and she still had some power. So, the first thing I did when I got home is go to the bowling center and practice my new approach.
It came pretty natural to me. I was immediately in better time and my flat spot was much longer. I could repeat it pretty quickly and knew right away it was something that I would implement into my game. Everything just fits together much better now.
Squad 2 and 3 went well. Although, both squads had a not so good game in there (missed the transition). I used the Shooting Star by Rotogrip for almost every game in both squads (except the beginning of each squad). It gives me the best, most consistent reaction.
I went about 160+ in each squad which would appear to be pretty good-- except there is someone in front of me by a lot that won't stop striking! Aumi Guerra from the Dominican Republic won this tournament last year and is bowling fantastic. I have done a great job not looking at the scores, but I know she is well ahead of me because it seems like I can't beat her even one game. (she's bowling next to me so it's hard to not notice she always has a big string.) She is using a Nano and her reaction is pretty stinkin good.
Coach Rod and I are having a good time working together. Relaxed, but making sure we are on top of our moves. It's also nice to have such a great support group behind me in my parents, Dennis and Kandi and my BIGGEST fan, Madden, and my husband John who got in tonight!! Yay. Also big thanks to Jason Belmonte for being there to support me. It must be tough for him to watch someone strike a quarter of what he does.
Looking forward to my last qualifying squad tomorrow at 4pm. So happy John has joined us. It probably wasn't the most opportune time to get away from work right after Diner's Drive Ins and Dives featured his restaurant, Panozzos's Italian Market on their show. If you haven't already, check it out here.
Tomorrow I will do my best not to have that one sub par game in my 5 game block. I will also plan to continue to beat my previous blocks. So far, each squad has gotten better. I can't thank the fans in South Africa enough. They are really wonderful and it's an honor to bowl here in front of them.
December 1, 2011
First day of competition! I got my 8 a.m. squad out of the way early in the week. (Good thing!!) The funny thing about my first squad is that whatever ball preconceptions I had of what I would throw were quickly thrown out the window during practice. As expected, the lanes played differently for me. I ended up using the Roto Grip Shooting Star for the entire block, only moving about four boards all day. I left some pins out there but I am confident I will make them up during another squad.
I'm happy with the start of this tournament as Coach Rod and I worked well together and created a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. I am sure this will continue on into the rest of the tournament. I haven't looked at the scores as I don't need the added distraction.
Tommy Jones had a great start as well for the first block and Jason Belmonte wowed everyone in the night block by throwing a 300 and 1,278 to lead the day. Lots of bowling still left!
Getting ready to bowl my second squad which falls at 8 p.m. tonight. Thanks to everyone that is following this blog, my progress and is rooting me on along the way.
November 30, 2011
Official practice was today. The center has two sides and the tricky things about the center are: lane 13 is up against a wall, lane 1 has a ledge that falls right around board 45 on the approach. It's pretty warm in the center, and the distance between the two sides is equivalent to Jay Cutler throwing a pretty long pass to Devin Hester in the end zone. It's located in a small mall not in the best neighborhood of South Africa. Our hotel IS located in a very good area. Lane surface is brand new, but there is quite a bit of friction. I need to make sure that when shooting spares, I know that my spare ball will pick up a roll and hook a little more than it normally does.
My best looks came from the Nano and the Prodigy. I was playing around 14 at the arrows and had some room right and some hold left. The bandit also looked good when the lanes started to break down. I felt good on the lanes but I am well aware that the lanes are always different for the tournament. I take practice lightly and come into the tournament with an open mind.
After practice session, we checked out the mall down the road. It was a very, very nice mall with many great stores. We had a great lunch at a coffee shop with one of the nicest South African waiters I have seen yet. Everyone here is so happy, and gracious. I didn't buy anything at the mall as my only goal for my mall trip was to buy a stroller for Madden. I didn't find one that I liked at the mall, so we headed to the Toys R Us right outside the mall. I bought him a nice orange and grey Maclaren stroller. (He's happy with it.)
That night we met up with some friends from South Africa. I really enjoyed dinner as we learned sooo much about this country. It's very hard to believe that the apartheid ended in 1994. It doesn't seem that long ago. Nelson Mandela was freed and all races joined together. Sport helped this very significant time in history. It was at this time that all races could join together to compete on the same teams. I learned that even though everyone was considered "equal" there are still struggles with older generations. Our South African friends told us an unfortunate statistic that South Africans are more likely to get car jacked in their lifetime.
At the Lion Park we went to the other day, apparently a woman got mauled by a lion because her windows were down in her car. That's very scary!! They told us stories about having monkeys as pets, and how it's normal for people to have game farms with lions, and giraffes. Such an interesting dinner!
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
We arrived yesterday. It's currently 12:38 a.m. and I have jet lag. Bad. I finally got to travel to the #1 place on my list of "places to go before I die": South Africa. Many ask why have I always wanted to travel to South Africa. I really don't have an answer. I just know it has always intrigued me. Safaris. Lions. Beaches. Beauty. I have just always wanted to go. And now, I'm here. It all seems surreal. I get to travel to my #1 place with my entire family. To do what I love. Seriously?
Our trip began on November 27th. My Mom, Dad, and son Madden left Chicago at 1:10 p.m. for Washington, D.C. The trip began smoothly as I didn't have to pay for any extra baggage. Madden wasn't the most comfortable on this flight because there were no empty seats so he had to be passed from my mom and dad to me for the whole hour. Luckily, it was just an hour. I was praying that our long flight to South Africa would be roomier.
When we landed in Washington, D.C. we had our first hiccup. Madden's stroller = broken. As in, unusable. As in, no way someone just threw luggage on the stroller; it had to have been slammed in the airplane door. Ahh! So, I had to wait for a United Airlines representative to come to our gate. It took them f o r e v e r. When we landed we had a good hour and 15 minutes before our flight to South Africa.
After talking to the supervisor about what I need to get reimbursed (have to file a claim) and what they can do for me immediately (they offered me a loaner stroller. But, I had to go to baggage claim to get it. Uh, flight was leaving in 25 minutes. No way that would happen.) After making sure everything was documented and taking photos of the stroller (which made me sad because it was Madden's first stroller, and a gift from John's family) it left us with about 20 minutes to get to our South Africa airline flight, which was NOT close to the gate we were at. So, we booked.
They were waiting for us at the South African Airline gate. Lucky. We were the last ones on the plane and I was not happy that they made me take things out of my carry-on because it was too heavy (toys, food, and other items for Madden) but, I WAS happy to see we secured an entire row of four. Since Madden was a "lap child" I was really hoping that there would be some open seats on our VERY long flight so that he can lay down and we could breathe a little. Turns out there were!
Tommy Jones was on our flight. I spotted him after Madden's second diaper change of the flight. It took us seven hours to get to Dekar. Anyone know where that's at? Western Africa. Crazy to think it only takes a seven-hour flight to get to Africa and eight hours flight from Dekar to South Africa!! We had to stop in Dekar to refuel (I think) and load up more people.
Madden was a champ the entire day, considering he was extremely tired and confused. I won't say he didn't cry at all on the plane, because he did. Especially when he was fighting to go to sleep. But, once he got his nap in, he woke up happy and ready to play. His mommy, however, could not get the sleep she normally gets on flights because she was afraid her little nugget would roll off the seat onto the floor. Him sleeping was much more important than me sleeping.
We landed in South Africa after a very cold flight to Joahannesburg (AKA J-Burg). It was about 6 p.m., and we got through customs and retrieved our luggage with no problem. The World Cup welcoming committee came to pick us up and take us to our VERY nice hotel about 30 minutes from the airport. The weather was great, and the people seemed nice. Although, many people from J-Burg mentioned to be very careful as there is a lot of crime in this city. Keep your belongings close and hold them tight. Kinda made me nervous. As long as I had my most important belonging close (nugget) then I would be just fine.
After that long day of travelling, we got to the hotel, checked in, and decided to grab some dinner with Jason Belmonte and his dad, Aldo. Madden was still smiling and laughing! He amazes me. We are staying at a great hotel complex that is very close to a casino so there are many food choices. First night food choice was Italian. Breakfast the next morning was great: made-to-order eggs, and a nice choice of pastries, meats, and cheeses.
Coach Rod Ross came in at 6 a.m. on November 29th. Since we would have an unofficial practice session later in the day (2:30 p.m.) my dad, Madden and Aldo and Jason decided to take a cab to the Lion Park about 20 minutes from our hotel. Once the tournament starts up there probably won't be much time to see anything, so we wanted to fit in something cool. And, cool it was!! We took an hour ride around the Lion Park admiring the beauty of these amazing animals. We also saw cheetahs (very cool) and wild dogs (not that cool).
We were able to play with the little Lion cubs at this Lion Park. I was a little nervous to have Madden get too close to them, but he did get close enough to pet them. Apparently Lions take a real liking to babies. All I could hear is John's voice in my head, "Don't let the Lion's eat Madden." I promised I wouldn't. :)
Unofficial practice went well. Who knows if I bowled on the pattern that will be set out. I used every ball, and I liked each reaction in their own way. The balls I chose to bring with me are: (From strongest to weakest) Nano, Prodigy, Shooting Star, Bandit, Victory Road, and Storm Ice. I think it's a very developed arsenal and felt really comfortable in practice.
Opening ceremonies were tonight and I have to say, it was pretty special to march out wearing Red, White, and Blue carrying our United States sign and seeing Madden looking at me. I could tell he was proud of his momma. Seeing him there with me made me realize once again that I don't have to give up my dreams to make his come true. He wouldn't want that. It was great to catch up with old friends, and meet new ones at this opening ceremony held at a South Africa brewery.
I look forward to keeping you updated on my once-in-a-lifetime trip to South Africa. It's an honor to be here, and to be able to represent all of Team USA, and all of our country. I take that seriously and promise to bowl with every single thing I have in my heart.