Bowler seeking success at Special Olympics World Summer Games

For any athlete, wearing the Maple Leaf is a source of pride.

Linda Renner can't wait to put it on.

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She'll be wearing her red and white Team Canada jacket when she boards an 8:45 a.m. flight today in Vancouver en route to Los Angeles.

L.A. hosts the Special Olympics World Summer Games from July 25 to Aug. 2 and Renner is representing Canada.

"It's a huge honour," she said recently at Strike Zone prior to her last bowling practice. "I feel like I'm representing Special Olympics in northern B.C. and B.C."

Renner, 52, is one of 16 Canadian athletes competing in 10-pin bowling and one of five from B.C.

She's only the second Special Olympian from Prince George to compete at the World Games. Marinka Van Hage was the first when she competed in snow shoeing and 10-pin bowling.

Renner's journey to L.A. is one that began 29 years ago when she first competed in the five-pin game. Seven years ago she switched to 10-pin.

"More pins is more challenging," she said. "When you're around more athletes it's more fun."

Bowling is a popular sport for Special Olympians since everyone can participate.

In Prince George alone, there are 14 10-pin teams and 10 five-pin teams.

Renner's hard work and dedication on the lanes began paying off three years ago when she bowled at a regional meet in Prince George. She did well enough to advance to the 2013 Special Olympics B.C. Summer Games where she earned a spot on Team B.C. that competed in the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in Vancouver in 2014.

Her B.C. team rolled to a silver medal and she put it all on the line to capture the gold medal in singles play.

That gave her a berth on Team Canada and the trip to L.A.

"I was just focusing on what I had to do," she said. "I threw with some gusto and power. When the letter came in (that I qualified) I was on Cloud 9. When I told (coach) Thom (Ross), he was on Cloud 9."

Since she qualified last summer, for the last year under the guidance of long-time bowling coach Ross, she has trained at Strike Zone every Tuesday and Thursday for up to 90 minutes per practice.

With a 13-pound ball, Ross has built upper body strength as well as technical strengths.

"Linda has a wicked curve on the ball," said Ross. "We've been working on making the curve work for her to get the maximum possible points. My wife Jackie has taught her to hit the middle. We have to give Strike Zone a lot of credit for allowing us to come in and train. We're very thankful for their support."

The Special Olympics World Summer Games happen only once every four years. In L.A., there will be more than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries. Canada will have a contingent of 115 athletes.

"The neatest thing about worlds is you get to interact with 177 countries," said Ross. "It's OK if you don't know how to speak German or Russian, but you'll have fun."

"I'm just going to do my best and shoot for the top," added Renner.

She'll also have a stuffed toy moose mascot named Thom (after her coach) tucked away in her bag for good luck.

"Jackie wanted to find something that represented Canada and the moose is perfect," said Ross.

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