After an intense 8-day qualification round, it was finally time for the exhilarating finals! The stage was set, the players were ready, and the excitement in the air was palpable.
In Group 'A', the top 22 players had made it to the final steps, along with the top 14 from Group 'B' and the best 14 doubles teams. The finals were about to kick off at the buzzing "Joy Station in Sofia, Bulgaria.
After the intense final steps 1 and 2, the leaderboard was cut to 4 players in each group, who advanced to the stepladder finals.
The first match in the A Group stepladder showcased two Greek athletes, Nikos Serelis and Stauros Parasakis. Nikos displayed his skills with confidence and secured a solid victory, scoring 191 pins against Stauros' 155.
Moving on to the semi-final, Nikos faced a tough opponent - Craciun Anton from Romania. It was a nail-biting game, but Craciun managed to clinch the win with a spare, ending the match at 174 pins to Nikos' 168.
This set the stage for the final match between Craciun Anton and another talented Romanian bowler, No 1 seed Alexandru Arbanas.
Craciun put on a dominant performance, scoring an impressive 241 pins and ultimately claiming the title in Group A.
The stepladder in Group 'B' was equally captivating.
The first match featured Ivo Klark from Bulgaria and Gorazd Sipek from Slovenia. Gorazd displayed his prowess, reaching a total of 223 pins, which secured him the win against Ivo's 191 pins.
Gorazd then faced off against the talented Israeli athlete, Mor Lisiyansky, in the semi-final. Mor delivered an outstanding performance, scoring a total of 203 pins, leaving Gorazd behind at 169.
The stage was set for the final match between Mor Lisiyansky and the Group B qualification leader, No. 1 seed Mirela Tibuleac from Romania.
Once again, Mor showcased her incredible skills, scoring an impressive 234 pins and earning herself the champion title in Group B.
The final steps in the 'Doubles' category were incredibly intense. The first stepladder featured the dynamic duo of Alexandru Arbanas from Romania and David Barak from Slovakia, facing off against Mariana Meteksinova and Cynthia Duca. Alexandru and David delivered a stellar performance, scoring a total of 414 pins, surpassing the 362 pins achieved by Mariana and Cynthia.
Moving on to the next match, they faced the Bulgarian pair, Alexander Zahariev and Stoyan Arsov. It was a thrilling battle, but Alexandru and David managed to secure 472 pins, while their opponents reached 406. With their consistent striking, Alexandru Arbanas and David Barak advanced to the final, where they met the Greek duo of Nikos Serelis and Lefteris Montsenigos.
The match remained neck and neck until the last frame, but it was David Barak's exceptional score of 245 pins that sealed the victory for their double, reaching a total of 407 pins, while the Greeks amassed a respectable 384 pins.
It was a well-deserved win for Alexandru Arbanas and David Barak, who emerged as the champions in the 'Doubles' category.
In addition to their victories, two bowlers received special recognition. Alexandru Arbanas was honored with an award for achieving the highest game score of the entire tournament, an outstanding 290 pins.
Stoyan Arsov also received recognition for his remarkable participation, having taken part in the most squads, competing in an impressive 17 out of the 24 possible.
More than 120 bowling players from all over Europe stood in a fight for a title and €20,000 prize fund. This year, the Balkan Challenge was set as a Singles and Doubles event only, with increased prize funds for both divisions. The winner of the Balkan Challenge Group A was awarded with a €2,800 cheque, while winners at the Doubles event will share €400.
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