When tenpin bowler Michael Schmidt arrived at the Qubica/AMF Bowling World Cup last year, he was an unknown commodity, just hoping to do well in his first trip on the world stage.
This time around, he's the defending world champion with all the expectations that come with that title.
"Last year, I went in not really expecting anything, excited about the whole idea of representing Canada for the first time and just wanting to see how well I could do on the international stage," said Schmidt. "This year I know how well I can do so I'm going in with the attitude that I've already won it once and I'm super-pumped and excited about (defending his title)."
Schmidt, who turned 26 last Thursday, is representing Canada at the 42nd annual Qubica/AMF Bowling World Cup in Caracas, Venezuela. Approximately 100 countries from around the world are sending bowlers, making it the largest annual international sports competition in the world in terms of the number of participating countries.
"Whatever happens out there will happen," said Schmidt, who won the men's division last year in Ljubljana, Slovenia and earned the right to defend his title by winning the Canadian National Finals in March in Caraquet, N.B. "I'm already the world champion. I don't expect too much to happen. Of course, I would like to win it again but I'm very satisfied with everything that's happened so far."
JOINED BY FATHER
Schmidt will be joined by female bowler Veronica Lalande-Lapointe of Ille Perrot, Que., and his father Ulrich, who will coach the Canadian duo. Lalande-Lapointe also competed in Slovenia, placing 31st.
Wearing Canada's colours in an international competition instantly puts the spotlight on Schmidt and Lalande-Lapointe.
"(At the World Cup, World Championships and Pan Am Games) Canada is always very well represented," said Schmidt, who claimed Canada's seventh Bowling World Cup title last year and first by a Canadian male since 1972. "I would like to think that Canada is an instant contender in any tournament they go into in tenpin bowling."
The competition begins tomorrow with eight games a day for three days. The field is cut to the top 24 for the fourth day's games and then down to the top eight for the head-to-head best-of-three playoffs. The final is next Friday. Schmidt's goal is similar to last year: to make the top 24 in about the 10th spot to put him in good position for the final cut.
"My goals haven't changed that much this year just because they worked pretty well last year," he said.
A certified coach, Schmidt's father Ulrich attended last year's Bowling World Cup as a spectator and supportive dad. This time around, he's responsible for making sure both of his charges are ready to roll.
"(This year) will be very different in that now I won't be able to sleep in on the second day," joked Ulrich, who has been involved in tenpin bowling since Michael was six. "It's almost like a second job right now ensuring that these two fine bowlers are prepared."
"(After their experience last year) He knows exactly what we're going through at every stage of the championship," said Michael.