Australia’s newest female Tenpin Bowling medal winner

By Matt Stevens
August 11, 2023

In high-performance sports, the emergence of fresh talent often ignites a spark of excitement, illuminating the path for a new generation of athletes.

One of the guiding lights for Tenpin Bowling in Australia is Hannah Clark—a rising star whose achievements have carved a place for her among the nation’s esteemed female bowlers. Recently, at the Asian Youth Championships held in Bangkok, Thailand, Hannah’s exceptional talent earned her a historic bronze medal in the female singles competition.

Australia’s female bowlers rejoiced as Hannah’s triumph marked a significant milestone. Not since 2015 had an Australian female bowler claimed a medal at the Asian Youth Championships. Making the achievement even more special, the last medal won in a female singles event at an Asian Youth Championship dates back to 1997 when Maxine Nable secured a silver medal at the 9th Asian Youth Championships. Hannah’s stellar performance thus became more than just a personal achievement—it symbolised a resurgence in Australia’s representation at the highest levels of the sport.

Beyond her remarkable feat lies a compelling journey of passion, grit, and dedication. From the local alleys of her hometown to the international stage, Hannah has honed her craft under the watchful eye of mentors, family, and friends. Her success story not only inspires her fellow bowlers but also showcases the immense talent blossoming within the country’s bowling community.

Meet Hannah Clark, the new face of female bowlers in Australia, whose exceptional performance at the Asian Youth Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, has solidified through hard work, resilience and belief that dreams are within reach and anything is possible.

“Thailand was a great experience,” explained Clark. “Everyone was really friendly, and our team being close made it even better. Winning the Bronze medal was the event’s highlight for me, and I was very grateful for all the support I received back home”.

Hannah Clark arrived in this world twenty years ago after being born in Townsville in 2003. Moving to Bundaberg shortly after, Hannah began her bowling journey when she was ‘little’, by joining her brothers in the Tuesday Bowlopolis league at Bundaberg Bowl. 

As the brothers grew, they branched out their sporting involvement to football, which halted Hannah’s bowling pursuits. Hannah would try all sorts of sports, yet no matter how hard she tried, bowling remained the ‘only sport she ever liked’. As Hannah grew, so did the urge to return to the lanes. As she began High School, Hannah would return to the sport and not look back.

A skills clinic with PWBA Hall of Fame legend Kelly Kullick in Bundaberg was enough for Hannah to strive harder towards her goals.

“Kelly was the first pro bowler I met in Bundaberg and helped me with my game immensely,” explained Hannah. “Kelly remains by idol who I inspire to replicate”.

Increasing her involvement as the years went on, Hannah started to realise there were more opportunities to bowl other than her usual league bowling commitments. Tournament bowling began to draw interest from Hannah as she participated in several tournaments across Queensland, such as the Ken Mills Kup and South East Queensland Shield. Her experiences within tournaments only grew her love for the sport and began to shape her intentions for years to come while progressing her transition to a competitive bowler.

Always looking for more opportunities for development as a bowler, Hannah and her family moved to Brisbane in 2018 for an increase in opportunities as a bowler as she realised bowling was something she intended to pursue on the elite level.  

“It has always been something I had wanted to do,” explained Clark.

 “We made the move as there were more opportunities in Brisbane for bowling and work.

“It was the only sport I ever enjoyed, and I tried several sports. What I love about it is that it’s just not an individual sport but also a team sport, ” Clark added. A string of solid performances in early 2020, with one result seeing Hannah finish in 4th place at the prestigious Queensland Junior Cup, started to provide recognition to the young bowler. Hannah was selected for the Junior National Training Squad (NTS) in 2020. As we all know, the year 2020 didn’t pan out to be a great year of opportunities.

“Over the COVID period, it got me to work on my game differently,” explained Clark. “It was challenging as everything just stopped, but we just had to be patient and control what we could”.

As some normality resumed in 2021, Hannah was again selected for the Junior NTS. She also began to extend her involvement in older division events by finishing 8th in the Darwin Cup women’s event. The highlight came with fifth place at the Sydney Youth Cup event.

Through strong play, determination and patience, Hannah was selected for the Youth NTS in 2022, which began a turning point in her career. As the year progressed, Hannah was selected for her first Australian team for the IBF Under 21 World Championship.

Still largely unnoticed on the bowling scene without a podium, NTS21 Head Coach Geoff Bowness saw potential in the rising star understanding the past years had not been ideal for any bowler to have a real shot at success.

“Hannah, even before the selection for Sweden showcased unlimited potential,” explained Bowness.

“As we came out of COVID and I started watching more athletes again, Hannah ticked many boxes.

“An ability to hit a target, contain and control ball speed and be great at sparing, Hannah is an extremely effective athlete with an open mindset making her a brilliant bowler to coach,” added Bowness.

Receiving the tick of approval from one of the country’s most experienced and qualified coaches, Hannah travelled to Sweden to represent Australia realising the dream she had early on in life in Bundaberg. It wasn’t a perfect transition, but Hannah remained quietly confident she was ready for the challenge.

As the Championship began, Hannah began to showcase why Bowness selected the way he did for the Championship. After a two-year absence from international competition, the IBF Youth World Championships welcomed 222 athletes from 35 countries to compete for medals in several events.

Hannah performed strongly for her debut appearance in green and gold colours finishing 30th in the females All-Events from a field of 86. Up against some of the very best in the world, including the incredible Singapore bowler Coleen Pee who won gold in all events (singles, doubles, teams, and mixed teams), Hannah performed strongest of all Australians in the singles competition. Averaging 196.7 over her six games, Hannah finished in 10th place in her squad before eventually finishing in a team-high 26th place.

Also a vital member of the 10th place finishing female team of four, Hannah took many learnings from her debut appearance for Australia.

“I learned that the other countries bowl a lot more than we like to in schools,” said Hannah with a laugh.

“If I wanted to have a chance to do well, I knew I would have to work harder, so that is what I did.

“I enjoyed my experience in Sweden as we had a great team, and it was a perfect first experience being overseas”.

Returning from her debut Australian campaign, Hannah got to work immediately and began seeing instant results. Claiming her first podium finish in a ranked event at the Grand National Youth Eliminator at Caboolture Bowl at the end of the year, finishing in 2nd place.

The finish to 2022 and a red-hot start to 2023, where she would finish with another podium in third place at the Werribee Youth Cup,  Hannah would again be thrust into calculations for selection for the Australian team that would travel to Bangkok, Thailand, for the 21st Asian Youth Championships.

Australia has a rich history of competing in the event and competed at the first edition in 1981 in the Philippines, where Australia claimed an astonishing eight medals.

Selected to represent Australia for the second time in two years, Hannah was excited to don the green and gold colours again in an international competition.

A field of 41 bowlers from 17 countries was on hand for the return of the prestigious event, and first up was the female singles event. Three squads would run with Australia active in Squad 1 and 2.

In the first squad, team members Emily Hart and Samantha Clifton provided Australia with the best start possible by finishing first and third in the squad. Up next in Squad Two, Hannah would get her chance.

Entering the tournament with a personal best six-game series score of 1,217, Hannah would quickly warm to conditions and come out firing in her squad. Scores of 201, 228, 168, 218, 212, and 195 would see Hannah average 203.67 and finish on a total of 1,222 beating her personal best and finishing first in squad two.

Hannah would then have to endure a nervous wait to see if her performance was good enough to claim a medal for her country with squad three scheduled for the following day.

After a wave of support received online, Hannah waited patiently, watching squad three go to work. The impressive Choi Yurin from Korea would perform strongest and claim the gold medal finishing on 1,236, and Arianne Tay from Singapore would take the silver medal finishing five pins ahead of Hannah on 1,227.

Hannah survived and maintained her position on the podium to be awarded the bronze medal in the girl’s singles event. Hannah was also only 15 pins away from winning the Gold medal. The strength of the challenge is evident when scrolling through the event’s history, showing Australia had not achieved such a feat in the girl’s singles event for 26 years, with it last being done in 1997 by Maxine Nable.

“I knew there were some amazing bowlers in squad three, so I felt so overwhelmed having to wait for squad three to complete their block,” explained Clark.

“When I realised I won my place on the podium, I was overcome with emotion by feeling everything all at once.

“My dad was the first person to call and congratulate me. It was a surreal moment and winning the medal means the absolute world to me,” added Clark.

Hannah has come a long way in a short time.

The last two years have been a whirlwind for the 20-year-old who spends her bowling time at home bowls Logan City Tenpin and Aspley 10 Pin Bowl. Now back home and back to reality, Hannah has returned to work where her other passion lies – animals. Hannah is completing a traineeship to become a full-time dog groomer at K9 Chic Dog Salon.

Still, her coach Geoff Bowness is beaming with pride at Hannah’s achievement in Bangkok.

“Hannah is one of those revolutionary athletes that, after each event, shows continuing improvement. The small things that get better” explained Bowness.

“My pride in Hannah’s result was one of those moments when you reflect backwards and see what just twelve months of devotion to the game can bring.

“I am always excited to see success, particularly after the athlete understands that process comes first. Hannah thoroughly deserves her moment in the sun, and I am thrilled to see what the future holds,” added Bowness.

Hannah has always known she was destined for great things in the sport. Showcasing patience beyond her years and a high work ethic, the possibilities are endless. Hannah’s recent achievement has only solidified the belief she has always had but with a bit more certainty and a rejuvenated spirit that comes with success.

“The achievement gives me more confidence in myself, and I hope I have the opportunity to win a medal for Australia again,” explained Clark. “My future goals are about getting that chance to bowl for Australia again and also strive to compete on the American circuit”.

Tenpin Bowling Australia wishes to congratulate Hannah on this incredible achievement. Hannah’s bronze medal at the girl’s singles event at the 21st Asian Youth Championship is Australia’s 50th medal captured by a female at the Championships. The future is bright.