LAS VEGAS –The biggest stage in bowling was buzzing with excitement this week, as the South Point Bowling Plaza welcomed one of the sport’s most beloved events.
More than 170 bowlers competed in team and doubles competition at the 2022 Special Olympics National Unified Tournament, which helped usher in the 118th edition of the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
The 2022 USBC Open Championships will get underway Saturday and run for 129 consecutive days.
The relationship between the two tournaments began in 1991, and the National Unified Tournament now has been the opening act 30 times.
This year’s visit saw the Special Olympics bowlers and their teammates, friends and family return to the championship lanes after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two-day event began Wednesday with a ceremony honoring the bowlers, followed by team competition. Thursday saw the doubles competition as the keynote feature.
“It’s incredible to know that this is our 30th year opening up the USBC Open Championships,” said Marty Allen, the tournament director since inaugural event. “USBC treats us as a bowling community, and our participants are thrilled to be part of the action.”
The athletes bowled for ribbons and gold, silver and bronze medals. Bowling is second only to track and field in both popularity and participation in the Special Olympics. Regardless of physical ability, every team member gets a chance to “wow” the audience and fellow competitors.
“Our athletes are not judged on if they get strikes or not,” Allen added. “They all get to bowl with their families and friends and make memories that will last for a lifetime.”
These memories include a whole lot more than what just happens on the lanes.
“Many of our athletes took in the sights and sounds of Las Vegas,” Allen said. “For many, it’s their first time out of their hometowns since the pandemic started.”
Walking up and down the lanes, you can just feel and hear the excitement of the bowlers.
Some comments from the competitors:
“This event is so much fun.”
“I’m from Arizona, and it’s so cool to meet other bowlers from around the country.”
“Look at the ribbon I just won. I’m so happy.”
“This is the best time ever!”
Each team at the National Unified Tournament was comprised of two Special Olympians and their unified partners. The combination helps promote inclusion, acceptance and breaks down barriers through competition.
To be eligible for the Special Olympics National Unified Tournament, competitors must be USBC members, have a certified average of 15 or more games and have competed in their local Special Olympics events.
Beginning Saturday, the South Point Bowling Plaza will welcome for than 47,000 bowlers for the 2022 Open Championships, which will run for 129 days through July 18.
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