With the third round of the Baltic Times Open falling on the celebration of Sweden's National day, and having placed first in the previous round, the pressure was on the Swedish Embassy. In typical fashion, they showed both their country and their fellow tournament members a great game. And although they didn't win, they stole the attention of the night yet again.
Placing second overall as a team, player Anders Lindgren brought Sweden back into the spotlight when he received Parex Banka's "best player of the night" award for scoring the most points at 199. Along with this honorable title, Parex Banka awarded Lindgren with a free account at their bank with a credit limit of 1,000 of any currency of his choice.
"I'm going to quit my job at the embassy - this is better," Lindgren joked after receiving the prize. "It's really an honor, but the best thing is that the Swedish team was on top again with second place."
Rallying up a total of 424 points, Sweden didn't lose by much to Parex Banka, whose star bowler, Inese Krusta, wasn't playing her best.
"I'm not playing so good tonight," Krusta said after the first of two games. "I only scored 161, but I'll do better in this next game. We'll still go to the finals."
Krusta, however, wasn't the only player not feeling in top shape. In fact, two of team Sweden's three members - including Andres Lindgren - were injured from a rollerblading incident earlier in the day.
"We were practicing today on roller blades and got hurt," said Mikael Lindgren, "I have a sprained finger and this morning we both were limping - but we pulled through."
Perhaps it was the motivational help from their coach, Swedish Embassy Trade Commissioner Stig Friberg, that allowed the injured players to keep their focus and take second. Referring to himself as the team's "mental coach", it was Friberg's first time attending the tournament and his presence was well appreciated.
"I tell them to only visualize one thing - to win," Friberg said." They're focused the way we've decided to focus, which is our secret."
Whatever the secret strategy was, it seemed to work. On top of two injuries, all three members were worn out from a long day of national celebration. Yet, with the support of their coach and the majority of their fellow competitors, the team rolled many a worthy strike for their country.
"It was sometimes difficult to build up mentality today because they had a hard morning and a hard last night," said the coach. "But they're playing well. They're good reps for our country." In addition to Friberg, another new face at the Open was Einars Semanis, the Latvian ambassador to China. Although Semanis was playing with the Latvian Foreign Ministry for the first time, he was by no means a rookie to the sport.
"I've bowled diplomatic games in China before," Semanis said. "But I played much better there because I felt a bigger responsibility. I was representing Latvia in China so I was more energetic."
Despite the slight lack of pressure to represent his country, Semanis said he thoroughly enjoyed the night's competition and socializing. The only thing he felt was missing was the presence of family members.
"In China it was obligatory to bring your family to these games," he said. "I don't know about for other people, but for me it's better to have the family for support. I need my wife and kids for endorsement."
Semanis wasn't the only team member who could have used some endorsement. Latvian Foreign Ministry's Peteris Elferts was a bit disappointed with his performance as well.
"We didn't play that well," Elferts said. "It's up to our colleagues to bring us up in the fall." With a total of 287 points, the Latvian Foreign Ministry did not qualify for the next round. But as Semanis plans to bring his family to the next game, things could change for the team.
In the end, Parex Banka took home the champion cup with a total of 488 points. The Swedish Embassy took second with 424 points, followed by the German Embassy with 410.