Junior Team USA ready for TV show at 2019 World Bowling Junior Championships

SAINT-MAXIMIN, France - Anytime you travel nearly 5,000 miles to compete in an unfamiliar environment and on a lane condition that isn't revealed until the night before the official practice session, being flexible and versatile can be as important to the game plan as the bowling balls that made the trip, too.

Therefore, one of Junior Team USA's mottos this week at the 2019 World Bowling Junior Championships is to expect the unexpected, and that will be especially relevant Saturday morning when the team members walk into Paris' Institut du Judo to bowl for the doubles gold medals.

The group will need to be open-minded and quick-thinking when they step onto the two lanes specially installed for the doubles, team and Masters gold-medal matches of the inaugural World Junior Championships.

The setup will put bowling and some of the world's best youth bowlers ages 13-18 into the spotlight and under the bright lights of international television, but it's impossible to guess what kind of atmosphere or challenges the environment will create.

"It will be a sprint, since it's only one game, and anything can happen, especially with the new lanes and new surroundings, but we'll give Korea everything we've got," Junior Team USA head coach Bryan O'Keefe said. "As always, when traveling with Team USA, we have to expect the unexpected. We're in an unfamiliar place and a new venue, but it's still just bowling. We'll focus on our execution and making 10 good shots and hope it's enough."

When Junior Team USA's Mabel Cummins and Kamerin Peters take their first practice shots in the arena setting around noon local time, those potentially could be the first bowling balls to roll down the lanes, which are being installed throughout the day Friday.

The Team USA players will see the venue for the first time shortly before throwing those initial shots, and five minutes later, they'll be taking on Korea's Hong Soree and Jeong Youngseon for the gold medal.

There's no doubt that in those five minutes, they'll all be gathering as much information as they can about the lanes and the 41-foot World Bowling Montreal oil pattern and how the lanes compare to what they saw all week during qualifying and the semifinals at the nearby 28-lane Plaza Bowling Saint Maximin.

Both countries also will compete in the boys doubles final, which immediately will follow, so anything they can learn will be valuable. That's especially true for the Koreans, who also will be participating in the final and both Masters finals.

Though just 16 years old, the members of Junior Team USA in France this week are experienced on a plethora of challenging lane conditions and have been mentally tested in events of varying formats, like the annual Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite International.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of their success at those events is the experience they've gained bowling on TV. All four have made at least one appearance on national TV in the United States, so they're comfortable in the setting and won't be concerned with the lights or the fans or all the moving pieces around them.

"The first time I was on TV I was pretty nervous, and it was very out-of-body, but I learned from that," said Salama, a two-time Junior Gold champion who also bowled a televised 299 game in one of those title matches. "I know it's important to just focus on your bowling and your routine and stick with what got you there. Don't let the surroundings get to you."

Peters, whose TV experience came in the team environment at the USA Bowling National Championships presented by Sixlets, had similar feelings.

"I'm super excited to be able to bowl with Mabel and for the chance at my first gold medal," said Peters, a first-time member of Junior Team USA. "It's definitely going to be different because it's not a normal bowling center. It's always nerve-racking in that setting because the lights are hot and everyone's watching you, and you don't want to mess up. Before, I was more worried about the audience, so I just need to focus on what's happening in front of me, and I'll be all right."

Between his own personal bowling experience, his time as the director of bowling at McKendree University or the 15 years he has watched his wife, Shannon, compete for Team USA, O'Keefe wants the players to remember to enjoy the moment, which will be over in a blink.

"I think anytime you can compete for a gold medal, it's special," O'Keefe said. "You never know how many opportunities you'll have. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, so we're not going to take it for granted. We'll treat it with the respect it deserves and cherish the moment. It will be exciting and fun, and it will be in an incredible setting."

The custom venue will be ideal for accommodating in-person spectators and countless bowling fans around the world who will be able to tune in to the television broadcast.

All of Saturday's gold-medal matches will be livestreamed on BowlTV.

All qualifying rounds and semifinals at the World Junior Championships were held at Plaza Saint Maximin and livestreamed by World Bowling. The event included more than 100 bowlers, ages 13-18, from 35 countries.

Another twist for the first edition of the tournament is the use of the Current Frame Scoring system, where a strike counts for 30 pins, a spare counts for 10, plus the first-ball count and an open frame counts for actual pins knocked down. The 10th frame counts the same as all other frames, and with only 10 first balls each game, the maximum score still is 300.

For complete details about the World Bowling Junior Championships, visit WorldBowling.org.