Rifle teen to bowl abroad
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. – When Rifle’s Blair Bartels takes off for Austria in early July, his journey will be about more than the rare chance to bowl on an international stage.
It’s about a chance to experience life in a different part of the world, and a chance to put his camera to good use.
Bartels, 15, has been selected as a youth ambassador to the People to People International Friendship Games in Vienna, where he’ll train and compete against bowlers from all corners of the world.
He’ll also do his best to take in the culture-rich European city.
“I want to take lots of pictures,” Bartels said with a wide grin. “I’ll have to bring a few memory cards.”
He’ll certainly have no shortage of landmarks at which to aim his lens.
“I hope to go look at the castles,” Bartels said. “That’d be great. I’ll be going out and looking around, taking pictures of trees and people. Their buildings are different than ours. I’ve seen some pictures people have taken.”
On the bowling front, Bartels can’t wait to take in any differing styles of play he might encounter while abroad.
“I’d like to see what kind of oil patterns (style of oiling the lanes) they have, and the different kinds of bowling balls,” he said, “I don’t know if they’ll be legal here.”
Bartels’ ambassadorship came by way of an anonymous nomination and a thorough interview process.
The People to People program, which offers ambassadorships in a number of different sports, seeks out youngsters blessed with both athletic talent and sportsmanship qualities.
That’s because People to People’s aim is as much about uniting people from different cultures as it is an outlet for competition. President Dwight Eisenhower founded the organization in 1956, not long after World War II, with the hope that bringing the world’s youth together would help prevent another world war.
“People to People is not really based on who’s the best bowler,” said Jennifer Bartels, Blair’s mother. “I’m suspecting he got nominated because he made it to state last year. To be nominated, they’re really looking a lot for sportsmanship, for good kids to go over and represent the U.S.”
Blair’s not one for throwing a tantrum or getting too worked up during competition.
“[An interviewer] asked me if I ever pitched a fit at the bowling alley or stomped my feet or threw a hat or whatever,” he relayed. “I was like, ‘No, I don’t believe in that.'”
Bartels does have plenty of skill to accompany his sportsmanship-rich disposition. He twice made Colorado’s United States Bowling Congress Youth Championships and is a regular in local youth leagues at Rifle Fireside Lanes and Burning Mountain Bowl in New Castle.
Bartels is also a talented fundraiser. He’s well on his way to raising the nearly $7,000 in funds needed to cover his overseas trek. He’s done some old-fashioned soliciting by mail and even boosted his coffers with a little flamingo flocking.
“We put flamingos in someone’s yard and if they want them removed to go flock other people’s yards, they have to pay 10 to 15 bucks. … You just pick them up and move them to the next house that people want them moved to,” Bartels said, doing his best to explain the relatively popular fundraising practice involving plastic flamingos. “Some people pay extra so it doesn’t come back.”
The efforts have Bartels within $2,000 of his goal. While plenty of labor went into the collection of funds, neither Blair nor his mom have any doubts those efforts will prove worthwhile.
“What an opportunity for a 15-year-old boy to go travel and compete against other countries,” Jennifer said. “The impact for the rest of his life is going to be with him.”
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