World Games: Becoming a National Champion

Philip Gruppetta’s bowling talents were apparent at the early age of 11 when he was training with Special Olympics twice a week. He debuted on the world stage at the 2007 Games in Shanghai, where he won silver in his division, and now he comes to Athens to win.  But his ambitions don’t end there. Philip would like to become the National Champion in tenpin bowling in Malta.

Becoming a National Champion

Philip Gruppetta will be competing in bowling in the 2011 Special Olympics Games in Athens, Greece.

According to Malta Tenpin Bowling Association President, Mr. Julian Bonello, “Philip has always shown signs of being an elite athlete and his selection to represent Europe in our Sport of Tenpin Bowling is not only an honour for himself, but his family, coaches, Special Olympics Malta as well as our own National Federation. While he is still only fifteen years old, Philip has progressed through the ranks and is currently a First Division bowler in our National Leagues, with a composite average across all Leagues and Championships of 174.”

Philip placed fourth in the 2011 Open Gold Cup from 22 bowlers, missing out of a top-three place by only five pins. He also placed fourth in Malta’s most recent Intermediate National Championships for athletes under the age of 23.

Similarly, European Bowling Champion Sue Abela describes Philip as “a very talented bowler… driven by his passion for the sport of bowling. The sport of bowling in return allows him to develop his physical fitness, demonstrate his courage and allows him to meet people and make new friends.  I think Philip has the potential to be a top European bowler in his category. Philip is our Maltese star.”

His parents agree, but say his success comes not only from his natural talent, but his hard work.  He is a “hard worker, fighter, and a competitor who loves sport and enjoys the company of other players.” His parents tried several times to get Philip interested in others sports, such as football but he was often overlooked by coaches who concentrated on advanced athletes. 

Philip became frustrated and angry but his parents didn’t give up.  They found Special Olympics Malta. There, Philip began bowling and received the attention and support that he needed from coaches and volunteers. As his parents describe, “bowling gave him the confidence, self esteem, friends, goals, ambitions, a social life. Philip became a very different person through bowling and Special Olympics Malta.”

It may have been enough for Philip’s parents to see him enjoy himself in bowling but Philip, and his coaches, had higher expectations.

In the spirit of Special Olympics, his coach, Ms. Anna Calleja, kept pushing Philip to go farther, and to pursue a new best.  She believed that, given proper coaching and training, Philip would achieve his full potential and compete on par with elite bowlers.