Maltese bowlers Spiteri, Abela among medal winners in Kiev
Another fine showing abroad
In 2006, Ukraine, with the help of various non-Olympic sports federations around the continent, took the decision to host the first European Sport Games in Kiev.
Among the events included in the sports programme were tenpin bowling, bodybuilding, billiards, sumo and strongman contests.
The participating countries were Belarus, Belgium, England, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Moldova, along with the host country.
Based on their excellent recent performances in the international scene, not least the 2007 Mediterranean Championships, Maltese bowlers Mark Spiteri and Sue Abela were invited to represent the country on the occasion.
Both finished among the medal winners to bring home yet more sporting honours for the sport of bowling.
Both men's and women's competitions took the format of a 12-game qualifying round, followed by another three games for the top six in each category, after which the top three would play a stepladder final to decide the winners.
Spiteri handled the lane conditions expertly, shooting highs of 237 and 244 throughout round one, and peaking with a great 256 effort which earned him an award for the highest game.
He reached round two in first place on 2,425 (202 ave) and also scooped the highest six-game set (1,247) as well as the highest qualifying total. He stayed top during the three second-round games (2,999 total), securing a place in the final, just 20 pins ahead of Ukraine's own Andriy Vazhentsev. Matthew Hann, of England, qualified third.
The single game semi-final between Vazhentsev and Hann fell by the narrowest possible of margins to the local bowler - 160-159. The Ukrainian then went on to face Spiteri in the final over two games for total pinfall.
Spiteri would have been content with just a one-game decider as he clinched game one by ten pins, 176-166. Game two, however, went to Vazhentsev 170-193, meaning total tallies of 346-359. Spiteri had to settle for second place, just 13 pins behind.
Ukraine's entry in women's bowling, Olena Mishchenko, also proved strong, topping round one with an impressive 2,404 total. She led England's Jenny Billingham, 2,348, and Abela, 2,278.
Billingham on top
Round two's three games saw the same three players making it to the stepladder, although it was Billingham who took the top spot, with the Ukrainian and Abela in tow.
Abela faced Mishchenko for the one game semi-final, rolling a 191, not enough to make it to the final following her opponent's 211 winning game.
Mishchenko was then stopped in the final by Billingham, the English girl outperforming her fellow finalist in both games (200-185, 192-191) to take the title.
In a statement, the Maltese bowling association said the European Sport Games medals and the latest achievements in Kiev give yet more credibility to Maltese bowling and the locals' ability to compete at the highest level in the sport.