United States earns bronze medal in mixed team at 2021 IBF Masters World Championships in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -
Team USA members often say there's nothing like the pride and excitement that come with competing with the letters U-S-A on their backs, and North Carolina's Tracy Calfee now has the numbers to prove it.

Calfee said her heart rate generally resides around 90 or just below, but during the semifinals of the mixed team event at the 2021 International Bowling Federation Masters World Championships, the number reached into the 170s, according to the smart devices she uses to track it.

The 53-year-old right-hander teamed with three world champions in the newest discipline added to the IBF landscape, and the quartet came within a few pins of getting to bowl for the inaugural gold medal Wednesday at the Dubai International Bowling Centre. They fell to Sweden, 232-224, in the one-game semifinal.

Calfee, Parker Bohn III, Bob Learn Jr. and Sharon Powers opened the game with three consecutive strikes, but Sweden's Christina Dahlgren, Susanne Olsson, Martin Paulsson and Stefan Yngstrom matched the effort and added two more to take the early lead, before a 2-10 split ended the run.

With an opportunity to take control of the game, a series of unfortunate breaks halted any momentum for Senior Team USA. Learn left a 9 pin in the eighth frame, and Bohn left a 6-8 split immediately after, which he was unable to convert.

In the four-player version of the Baker format, the leadoff bowler bowls the first, fifth, ninth and 10th frames. The other team members bowl the second and sixth, third and seventh and fourth and eighth frames, respectively.

That meant Bohn had a chance for redemption in the final frame, but his first shot resulted in a 10 pin that seemed to tip as far as it could without falling.

Paulsson, the silver medalist in singles this week, struck in the ninth frame, and on the first shot of the 10th frame, to seal the victory.

"My heart felt like it was beating 1,000 miles a minute, and I had to remind myself to take a deep breath each time I got up there to bowl," Calfee said. "The difference from the rest of the week to today was that there were medals involved in this round. I started to feel it in match play and definitely in the semifinals."

Sweden mixed team gold medalists at 2021 IBF Masters World ChampionshipsSweden went on to claim the gold medal with a 2-0 (227-207, 216-203) win over Finland in the best-of-two championship match. A split conversion from Olsson and a pair of strikes from Paulsson in the ninth and 10th frames of the second game locked it up.

The Finnish foursome included doubles gold medalists Kimmo Lehtonen and Petri Mannonen, who were joined by Reija Lunden and Tuula Tamminen.

They earned their spot in the final by defeating the other half of the Finland contingent in the semifinals, 204-190. That team featured Jaana Anttas, Jaana Taavitsainen, Ari Halme and Kai Virtanen.

While there was some disappointment for the Team USA members, Bohn was able to put their experience into perspective. The semifinals appearance meant the first medals for him and Learn at this year's event and the second bronze for Powers in as many days. She reached the semifinals in doubles with Tish Johnson.

"I told Tracy after we won the game to get to the medal round that she now will have a memory that will absolutely last forever because it's something she'll always be able to look at," Bohn said. "No matter what happened the rest of the way, she'd be taking something home she can cherish. I get chills thinking about it, because on this stage, anything any of us have done in the sport of bowling isn't close to as significant as bowling in the red, white and blue. That says it all and means it all."

The mixed team event Wednesday featured 29 teams.

All teams completed 10 Baker games of qualifying at the Dubai International Bowling Centre, before the field was cut to the top eight for match play.

The advancing teams were divided into two groups, each with four teams, and they all bowled three games of round-robin match play.

Points were awarded for each win, and the top two teams in each group, based on points, advanced to the bracket-style semifinals.

The semifinals each featured one-game Baker matches, while the final was a best-of-two bout.

The other mixed team for the United States included singles gold medalist Tom Hess, Chris Barnes, Debbie Ayers and Johnson. Their run at the medal round ended in the final frame of match play.Team USA Team 2 for mixed team at 2021 IBF Masters World Championships

Both Senior Team USA squads ended up in the same group, which was based on qualifying position.

All four teams were tied with three points after two games, which meant the two winners in the third game would advance to the semifinals.

As the anchor of his team, Hess had the opportunity to lift his team into the medal round.

He struck in the ninth frame of the last game and added two more in the 10th. He needed a strike on the fill ball to win. Nine would mean a tie and a roll-off. He left the 2-8 combination, and the team was eliminated. The game was against the Finland team that went on to bowl for the title.

The spotlight at the Dubai International Bowling Centre now will shift to the coveted team event. Qualifying will take place throughout the day Thursday and again feature 10 Baker games.

Match play for advancing teams, and the medal round, will take place Friday, and that will be the final competition of the 2021 IBF Masters World Championships.

Representing Team USA on the lanes has been special for Calfee, who made a career serving her country in the U.S. Army and then the Department of Homeland Security.

She even had the chance to bowl for the United States in the World Police and Fire Games, a multi-sport biennial athletic event, where she won three gold medals in two appearances (2015, 2017), but the stage this week has taken her to a whole new level of competition.

The team event is something she has been looking forward to experiencing.

"I am feeling a lot more comfortable than I did at the beginning, and everyone really has helped me along the way," Calfee said. "I never expected this caliber of players out here, but I feel a lot more confident going into these matches day by day. I've learned a lot, and I'm sure I'm not done. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, and I hope we can pull out a medal in the women's team event."

The Senior Team USA members all have advanced to match play in each discipline - singles, doubles and mixed team.

Each event beyond singles this week at the Masters World Championships features a variation of the Baker format, where multiple players contribute to a single score.

Two dozen countries are represented at the event, and they're competing across two age classifications - 50 and older and 65 and above - though Team USA only is competing in the 50-and-older division.

The Masters World Championships is the last of three events being held in Dubai.

The IBF Super World Championships kicked off the stint in the United Arab Emirates and was joined by the inaugural Para Bowling World Championships.

IBF is providing livestream coverage and complete results at StrikeCloud.com.

For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.