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Track Star Wants To Be a Bowler

April 30, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ He is one of the greatest hurdlers in track and field history. Now, with retirement looming at age 35, Roger Kingdom sees another hurdle ahead.

He wants to become a professional bowler.

``I’d love to give bowling a shot,″ said Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist. ``I started in 1985 and I’m getting better and better.

``My chances of getting on the circuit are better than breaking a world record.″

Kingdom is hardly the first athlete to switch sports. Michael Jordan tried baseball before returning to the NBA. Deion Sanders for a while played both baseball and football. NFL star Willie Gault made the 1988 U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

But hurdling to bowling is one of the more creative career changes.

``He’s a talented athlete and bowler,″ Professional Bowling Association commissioner Mark Gerbrich said. ``Right now, he’s like on the Double AA level. There’s a huge difference between that level and playing regularly on the PBA tour. The best bowler on the circuit averages over 220.

``But Roger has reached the top in track. He is someone who has demonstrated his dedication.

Gerbrich says Kingdom has the size and strength that would serve him well on the bowling tour.

``He has huge hands, he’s a powerful guy,″ he said. ``He can strike, he can throw the ball hard. We’re looking forward to having him.″

To qualify for the PBA Tour, Kingdom needs to compile a 200 average for two consecutive seasons in at least 66 games in a sanctioned league.

Kingdom averaged just more than 200 for the season that ran from September 1995 to April 1996, but the following season, he was slowed by track commitments and his average slipped to 184.

Now he is competing in two leagues. His average in one tops 200, his average in the other is 187. If he can bowl well during the summer season (May-August) and average 200 again he would meet the qualifying standard.

Since he plans an extensive track schedule, beginning next week with a meet in Qatar, rolling the required 66 games and averaging 200 will be difficult. He also could qualify by finishing in the money _ in the top third of the field _ in two regional tournaments within a year.

``The last two months, I’ve averaged about 220,″ said Kingdom, who has twice rolled a high game of of 267. ``I don’t think I’d have a problem of maintaining a 200 average if that is my goal and my direction.″

Now, however, Kingdom wants to regain the form that carried him to gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and helped him rank No. 1 in the world for five years (1984-85 and 1988-1990).

After Qatar, he plans to compete in Nigeria, then at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., or in Europe, before going after his sixth national title in the USA Championships at New Orleans in June.

The championships will be the qualifier for U.S. teams for the Goodwill Games at New York in July and the World Cup in South Africa in September _ two events in which Kingdom wants to compete.

``It’s not definite that this will be my last year,″ he said. ``I feel I’m capable of getting into the top five or six. I like the competition. I think I can stay with the young bucks. I will reevaluate after the season, but it’s coming to an end.″

When Kingdom does retire, he will go the Carl Lewis route _ make the announcement a year in advance followed by a grand tour. Only then would he pursue a career in bowling.

``Bowling will pose a challenge, just like track and field,″ Kingdom said. ``To get to the top.″