Aviv Alfital and Or Aviram succeed despite governmental apathy.
By SHARON SOLOMON
Israel is breeding a whole new generation of 10-pin bowlers who share an aspiration to turn into professionals.
The national junior 10-pin bowling team was one of the top squads competing at the 20th European Bowling Youth Championships earlier this month, returning home with medals in five different categories. The tournament in Thessaloniki, Greece, attracted 250 bowlers from 28 nations.
Aviv Alfital was the undisputed Israeli star, putting on an impressive performance in winning the under-19 crown. Alfital claimed a 2-0 victory in the best-of-three final against top-seeded Svein Ake Ek of Norway, and the teen prodigy from Holon has no intention of stopping there.
"I'm very happy with my performance," a humble Alfital told The Jerusalem Post. "Hearing the national anthem during the award ceremony filled me with joy.
"I want to become a professional bowler. There is lots of work to be done and I still have to develop certain aspects of my game.
"I entered this field when I was 10 years old. I saw an advertisement in a bowling alley and decided to give it a shot. The hard work has paid off and my next goal is to compete in Europe's professional tour."
Alfital teamed up with Ben Fisher in the boys' doubles to win the gold medal with a combined score of 2,608.
The spectators in Greece were clearly impressed with the Israelis' domination in the various events and enthusiastically applauded the team's players.
Israel also has heaps of talent in the girls' category. Mor Aviram, Mor Dayan and Liat Weisenthal brought Israel a respectable silver medal in the trios. Roni Ahronovich bowled a rare 300 to become the first junior girl ever to bowl a "perfect game" in the history of European 10-pin bowling.
"I'm very proud of what we have achieved," Israel Bowling Federation chairman Arie Fisher told The Jerusalem Post. "Israeli 10-pin bowling has come a long way in the last decade.
"The talent is definitely there, but the conditions are not optimal. We don't have proper practice facilities and the leagues are still not professional.
"Nobody imagined that Israel could produce such quality players. There was total chaos when I arrived at the helm, but our long-term planning has done the job. I hope we can build on this success."
Fisher also emphasized the difficulties running the Israeli 10-pin bowling leagues. The Premier and National leagues have eight teams each, who battle it out on a weekly basis in various venues. Most of the players are amateurs and have to pay for their personal equipment and travel expenses.
Ten-pin bowling has not yet been recognized as an official sport in Israel. Local municipalities prefer to support the mainstream sports and the Toto Council issues minor sums of money to develop local talent. The publicity aspect has been completely neglected due to the lack of funding, which is hindering the game's emergence.
Or Aviram, the reigning men's European champion, and Alfital, the newly crowned junior European champion, have brought more recognition and respectability to the game. The IBF hopes that their achievements will result in an increase in funding to develop even more world-class players.
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