Team USA wins gold in women's team, silver in mixed team as 2021 IBF Super World Championhips concludes

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -
If there are two things Kelly Kulick and the members of Team USA have proven, it's that you don't want to bowl them in a roll-off, and they love bowling in the United Arab Emirates.

For the second consecutive night, Team USA found its way to the top of the medal podium by way of a ninth- and 10th-frame roll-off, this time claiming the coveted women's team gold medal at the 2021 International Bowling Federation Super World Championships.

The extended period Monday was necessary after the United States and Malaysia each won a game in the best-of-two championship match. Malaysia took the first game, 190-170, and Team USA was clean on the way to a 215-171 victory in the second game.

Kulick struck to start the roll-off, and Danielle McEwan added a spare and a strike for a total of 40 for the two frames.

Malaysia began with a spare, which meant Natasha Roslan would have to strike on her first shot to keep Malaysia's hopes alive. She left a 4 pin on her first offering.

The win was the first women's team title for the United States since 2015, when the event visited nearby Abu Dhabi. Malaysia last won in 2017.

Kulick and McEwan were joined in the effort by another pair of world champions, Missy Parkin and Jordan Richard, who were trios gold medalists in 2019.

"We were there all week long, and all of us bowled well enough to make it to every medal round, but at times, the format wasn't to our advantage, and the way we qualified, or the number of pins we knocked over, weren't really factors," Kulick said. "But, for all the years I've been on this team, we've always said the gold medal we wanted to walk away with most was the one in the team event. We came together as a team today and made that happen, and it was incredibly special."

The championship round of each discipline at the 2021 IBF Super World Championships took place on an open-air two-lane setup inside Expo 2020 Dubai, a multicultural event that includes exhibits from more than 190 countries and will last six months.

The custom venue was built in the Sports, Fitness and Wellbeing Hub at Expo 2020 Dubai, and all of the action was broadcast live at StrikeCloud.com.

New in 2021, all doubles, trios and team competition at the World Championships featured variations of the Baker format from start to finish.

In the traditional five-player Baker format the leadoff bowler bowls the first and sixth frames, the next competitor bowls the second and seventh frames, and so on. The format was adapted for two, three and four players during the Super World Championships.

In the four-player events, also new in 2021 from five players in the past, the leadoff bowler bowled the first, fifth, ninth and 10th frames. The other team members bowled the second and sixth, third and seventh and fourth and eighth frames, respectively.

Team USA women's road to the gold was a little bumpy to start and included two opens in the first three frames of their semifinal match against Finland. The team then struck on six of its last seven opportunities to secure a 203-183 win. Malaysia topped the Philippines in the other semifinal, 279-180.

Korea men team gold at 2021 Super World ChampionshipsIn the men's team event, Korea cruised to a 2-0 (198-136, 248-196) win over Singapore and earned some redemption for Sunday night, when the Koreans fell to Team USA in a roll-off for the trios gold medal.

Korea earned its spot in the team final with a near-perfect performance against Malaysia, winning their semifinal matchup 299-184. Anchor Ji Geun left a 6 pin on the final shot of their bid for 300. Singapore reached the final with a 247-228 win over the Philippines.

Each team that lost in the semifinals Monday received a bronze medal. The Malaysian women and Singapore men earned silver medals.

The victory Monday marked Kulick's sixth win in six appearances at the team-based World Championships, four of which have come in the United Arab Emirates - singles in Abu Dhabi in 1999 and doubles and team (with McEwan) in Abu Dhabi in 2015.

"Every time we've come back to this area - UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai - the atmosphere has been more and more welcoming and warm," Kulick said. "Going through this Expo, they talk about unity amongst their people and warmly welcome all visitors. I enjoy bowling in such a safe and peaceful environment, and I've done really well here."

Team USA mixed team silver at 2021 Super World ChampionshipsKulick and Parkin also made a run at perfection Monday night, and it came in the semifinals of the new mixed team event, which debuted this year at the Super World Championships.

They teamed with Jakob Butturff and Kristopher Prather in the effort and strung together nine consecutive strikes against Singapore, before a 10 pin from Butturff ended the run. Team USA won the game 278-246.

The other semifinal featured two Swedish foursomes facing off for a shot at the inaugural gold medal, and it was southpaw standout Jesper Svensson who was able to lift his team to a 232-177 win. He was joined by Sandra Andersson, Joline Persson Planefors and William Svensson.

The best-of-two mixed team title tilt was every bit as exciting as you'd expect from two powerhouse teams, and it nearly resulted in another championship roll-off.

A late rally in the opening game from Team USA forced Sweden to mark in its final frame, which Planefors was able to do for a 225-215 win.

Sweden then opened the second game with four consecutive strikes, but Team USA was there nearly every strike of the way. The difference in the match was one pin through seven frames.

A double from Sweden in the eighth and ninth frames increased the lead, but a spare and a seven-count on the fill ball meant Kulick would have a chance to extend the match with two strikes and eight pins. She pulled the first shot and left a 3 pin to fall short, 236-226.Sweden mixed team gold at 2021 Super World Championships

"Even though we didn't win the mixed event, it still was a positive experience, and we bowled well to keep it close the whole way," Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe said. "There were a couple key moments in the match and a few in-between shots that were the difference. Sometimes, the pins don't fall your way. I'm proud of everyone. No, we didn't win, but I don't think we lost. We just got out-bowled by a great team."

Each event at the 2021 Super World Championships included 10 qualifying games, all at the Dubai International Bowling Centre, before a cut was made to the top 32 for singles and doubles and the top 16 for trios and the team events.

The advancing bowlers or teams were divided into four equal groups for round-robin match play within that group. Points were awarded for each win in match play, and the top two in each group, based on points, advanced to the single-elimination bracket-style quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal winners advanced to the semifinals and got to experience the custom venue at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Because of the location of the installation, tens of thousands of Expo visitors passing by had the opportunity to see the one-of-a-kind setup and the best players in the world.

Getting there, however, was frustrating at times, as all pinfall from qualifying was dropped before match play.

"It was an up-and-down week, and one where we had some trouble picking up the wins in the quarterfinal round," O'Keefe said. "We had a lot of big scores shot at us, and I guess maybe that's a compliment. People know they have to step up their games when they're bowling a one-game match against Team USA, and many times, they did. Overall, I'm proud of how we fought to put ourselves in that position and how we took advantage when we made it through."

The finals of team and mixed team marked the conclusion of the 2021 Super World Championships. In all, 36 medals were up for grabs - four for each gender in singles, doubles, trios and team, and four in mixed team.

Sweden left with the most medals, seven overall, followed by Singapore (five), Korea and the United States (four), Finland (three), Guatemala (two), Malaysia (two), Philippines (two), Canada (one), Colombia (one), Czech Republic (one), Denmark (one), Germany (one), Italy (one) and Lithuania (one).

The other medals for the United States were a gold medal in men's trios and bronze in men's doubles. The roster included Andrew Anderson, Butturff, AJ Johnson and Prather. It was Anderson and Prather who advanced to the doubles medal round.

In four visits to UAE (1999, 2014, 2015, 2021), Team USA won 19 medals. 

There also were supposed to be medals for the most valuable athletes and top-performing federations, but they have not yet been awarded.

"I couldn't be prouder of this team," O'Keefe said. "We came here and represented the United States like true champions. Everyone communicated well and bowled great the entire time. The best part of it, is that everyone is going home with a gold medal from the World Championships, and that's all you can ask for."

The IBF spotlight in Dubai now will shift to the final day of competition at the inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships, which will conclude Tuesday.

The IBF Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships is up next and will help wrap up the visit to the United Arab Emirates. Competition is scheduled to get underway Nov. 18.

IBF is providing livestream coverage and complete results for all three events at StrikeCloud.com.

For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.