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For most people tenpin bowling is a fun activity played with friends and family, but it is becoming increasingly recognised as a serious international sport. Now a North East student is representing England, and hoping to knock down the opposition like tenpins.

Becky Daly is studying for her degree in Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Sunderland, and alongside her studies plays for her country as part of Team England’s tenpin bowling squad.

Becky, 20, has just returned from the World Championships in Las Vegas. A keen player since she was 10 years old, she gained the nickname the Accrington Ace in her hometown of Blackburn – and now has put her talent on the world stage.

“My dad works as a carer and always took the adults he looked after bowling on one of his shifts,” explains Becky. “Because of that I started getting coached with my older sister at the Saturday Morning Youth Club, and the coaches immediately said that I had a great style and saw potential in me. Ever since I have loved the sport and want to improve more and more.”

Like many athletes Becky isn’t paid to represent her country, but plays for the love of the game. She plays in competitions throughout the UK, putting the prize money towards her expenses. To supplement the cost of competing for England Beck applied to the University of Sunderland’s Elite Athlete Scheme.

The Scheme provides personalised support to students who perform and compete in sport at a high level, and help them achieve both their academic and sporting potential. Former Elite Athletes include England Women’s Rugby Captain and Olympic medallist Katy McLean MBE; national Karate champion Holly Sterling; Newcastle Falcons’ Simon Uzokwe, and Great Britain’s Paratriathlon head coach Jonathon Riall.

“The Scheme is a great help,” says Becky. “It’s not just about having the funding, but knowing I have someone there if I am ever struggling with my studies. It is lovely to have someone to talk to who is interested in seeing me improve and succeed in my sport.

“The Elite Athlete Scheme was a massive help towards my trip to Las Vegas, which cost £1,000, and they helped me buy new equipment. The average cost for a bowling ball is £200, and I usually take a minimum of six to a tournament.”

As a junior Becky won gold, silver and bronze medals internationally. Now, as an adult player, she has won gold in the Triple Crown in Scotland and in Wales, and a further gold in the Commonwealth Games in South Africa in 2016. She has represented England in Vienna, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, South Africa and, most recently in the World Championships in Las Vegas.

“The experience of playing in Las Vegas was amazing and on such a different level to competing at any of the other places I have played. America always like to do everything bigger and better and they certainly did that for the World Championships.

“It was very tough and stressful, but also an amazing learning experience that I will always be able to look back on. Team England didn’t win any medals but as a country I feel that we represented ourselves well and performed the best we could.”

Next up for Becky is the European Women’s Championships, which are being held in Brussels in June 2018. She will be graduating from Sunderland the following month, then hoping to study for her Masters degree in Physiotherapy, with the eventual aim of becoming a professional sport physiotherapist.