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Koivuniemi bags bowling crown

FINLAND'S Mika Koivuniemi was last night crowned champion of the 11th Kingdom of Bahrain International Bowling Championship.

Koivuniemi clinched the winner's trophy after defeating Venezuela's Ildemaro Ruiz Jr 248-194 in the title-deciding game of the step-ladder finals.

Koivuniemi had earned his spot in the step-ladder by finishing as number one seed during the fifth round of eliminations.

Second-ranked Ruiz Jr won their opening duel, 207-201, but Koivuniemi held a twice-to-beat advantage so both players headed for the rubber match.

"I had a chance to finish off in the first match, except for a small mistake in the ninth frame," Koivuniemi was quoted as saying. "But I didn't want that to bother me and I stuck to my task. I'm glad to win here in my debut and claim my second title in the Middle East."

Ruiz Jr had earlier beaten third seeded Qatari Yousef Al Jaber 267-237 in the opening game of the step-ladder to set up his clash for the crown against a waiting Koivuniemi.

The win was the latest triumph for the highly regarded Finn, who has also won the Professional Bowlers' Association (PBA) Tournament of Champions and was also named PBA Player of the Year twice in his illustrious career.

Koivuniemi's win made it the second year in a row that a Finn has come away with the championship. Last year, Osku Palermaa was the big winner. Palermaa, however, just barely missed out on a berth in this year's step-ladder.

Along with the champions' trophy, Koivuniemi came away with a BD7,500 (nearly $20,000) payday. His win capped a stellar week, during which he scored a perfect game twice during qualifying.

Ruiz Jr claimed BD3,500 in prize money as the runner-up, while Al Jaber earned BD2,000 for third place.

The top three all earned their berths in the step-ladder following strong individual showings in the fifth stage of play.

Koivuniemi clinched the top spot after registering a 1,440 pinfalls total for a 240.00 average over six games. Ruiz Jr followed with a 1,398 total and a 233.00 average, while Al Jaber was third with a 1,376 total and a 229.33 average.

Missing out on a spot in the top three by just 27 pins was defending champion Palermaa. He had a 1,349 total for a 224.83 average in fourth place overall.

In fifth and finishing as the top-ranked Bahraini was Fawaz Abdulla. Like Palermaa, he too came up agonizingly close to making the finale, finishing the fifth round with marks of 1,348 and 224.67.

Rounding out the top six was Khaled Al Dubyyan. The Kuwaiti played a 1,335 total for a 222.50 average.

Finishing seventh through 12th place to complete the stage's classification were Qatar's Mansoor Al Awamy (1,299 total and 216.50 average), the UAE pairing of Mahmood Al Attar (1,296 and 216.00) and Hussain Al Suwaidi (1,284 and 214.00), Englishman Paul Moor (1,275 and 212.50), Indonesia's Ryan Lalisang (1,265 and 210.83) and Dominic Barrett (1,214 and 202.33), who is also from England.

During the competition's fifth round, which was also played yesterday at Ozone Entertainment Centre in Sitra Mall, Palermaa finished as the top man to lead six players into the next stage. Qatar's Al Jaber played a perfect game in the stage, helping him move on along with Ruiz Jr, Al Awamy, Al Dubyyan and Al Suwaidi.

Those missing out on the cut were Yousef Falah and Ahmed Al Awadhi of Bahrain, Eric Tseng and Michael Tsang of Hong Kong, Manuel Otalora of Colombia and Martin Larsen of Sweden.

Each of the tournament's top 30 took home prize money.

The winners were presented their respective trophies yesterday in a special awarding ceremony. Bahrain Olympic Committee secretary general Shaikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al Khalifa handed over the silverware.

The Open was sponsored by Elite Hospitality, Chevron, Bapco, Banagas and GPIC.



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