Maria Bulanova - Russian version of the American dream
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Maria Bulanova - Russian version of the American dream

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Maria Bulanova - one of the most outstanding athletes in Russia, her name is certainly known to every bowler. Her story is an example for many players, a source of inspiration and motivation, irrefutable proof that bowling opens up great prospects.

How bowling has influenced your life?

I believe that bowling has shaped my personality, and most of what I have achieved in life has been and is thanks to this sport. I was also very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. After all, if Galina Kaplan, Tatiana Maslova and Marianna Egides had not noticed me in 2005 at the Megasphere summer camp, all that unfolded further in my life might not have happened.  

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If by chance I didn't go to train with Sergey Starchenkov in 2008, maybe I wouldn't have had a chance to represent Russia all over the world, and then my team at Vanderbilt University in the United States. For 15 years, I have visited many countries and met people from all over the world. I think it was very important for my inner development. Talking with people from other countries, you can learn a lot of new and interesting things, expand your horizons. Life in America has also influenced me. Moving to Nashville (Tennessee) after school, I found myself on the other side of the world from my family and everything I was used to in Russia. It taught me independence and showed strong traits of my character, which definitely did me good. It's hard to imagine what my life would have been like if my parents hadn't brought me to Megasphere bowling center.

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The first strike and the moment when you realized that you want to do bowling? Could you then imagine what prospects are waiting for you?

I don't remember a lot about the beginning of my career, but I do remember the Megasphere camp in the summer of 2005. I liked to spend time there and play bowling, because a child at this age does not need much. At the end of the shift, I took 1st place in my age category, after which Galina Kaplan invited me to study at the children's sports school "Bowl land". It started as a simple hobby, but I learned quickly. I think that everything was easier for me then than for my peers, and winning children's tournaments only added motivation. At the time, I couldn't imagine exactly what prospects bowling would open up for me in the future.  

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Brief history: the main stages of development from the children's school to the current position, what events and tournaments have become decisive?

The very first significant event was the very tournament at the end of the camp shift in the “Megasphere", which I won in my category (2005). Probably, it was the beginning of my career, because after this victory I was invited to study at bowling school. Then, in 2012, I was selected for the first time in the Russian Youth national Team and from that moment I went with the team every year until I came of age (2016). It was at the European Youth Championships where I managed to win my first medals on the international stage. In 2013, I won RedExpress Russian Open, which attracted the attention of Brunswick distributor in Russia. We signed a partnership agreement for several years, and it is with the balls of this brand that many victories have been won in my career. From 2014 to 2016 years, I also went to represent Russia at Women’s European Championship, European Champions Cup, and QubicaAMF World Cup. After that, I went to study in America and represent the team of my University. My team and I became American national women's varsity Champions when I was in my 2nd year. Personally, I also received the titles of “Rookie of the Year” (2017) and “Player of the Year” (2018), and all 4 years I was selected to the symbolic “national” teams at the end of each season.

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A pivotal event that changed everything?

The 51st QubicaAMF World Cup in Las Vegas in 2015 was an event that changed everything. That fall I took 3rd place in the Cup, losing in the finals to Shannon Pluhowski from USA. It turned out that the coaches of some American universities were following the course of the tournament, since they had heard that I was only 17 years old at that time. After the tournament ended, I started getting emails from coaches offering to visit their campus and represent their University next fall. After much negotiation, I decided to choose Vanderbilt. This decision and moving to Nashville changed my life dramatically.

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Life in America, what is the difference between bowling in its’ homeland and bowling in Russia?

The biggest difference is the popularity of bowling in America. If you go to almost any large bowling center, the results of their weekly leagues will hang on the wall. Many centers hold leagues almost every day. They have regular leagues, leagues for school children, for retirees, for workers in various industries... In general, for anyone. But, in my opinion, this is not only the merit of the National Federation. Most Americans live in small towns where everyone knows everyone else, where there is nothing to do. So, most likely, the League appeared, then spread to the big cities. Now it is difficult to find a bowler in the United States who would not participate in the League, even some professionals practice this.

The second difference is the presence of a centralized university sports movement, which is popular and highly valued throughout the country. There are more than 20 sports in the state system, including bowling. To represent a University in any sport in America is prestigious and important. In Russia, this is not given so much attention if this sport is not an Olympic one. It is difficult to attract children and young people to Russian bowling, because neither they nor their parents see any prospects. In the United States, children start bowling from childhood, because it can really help them get into a prestigious University. 

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What are your top 5 career achievements: wins, titles?

1. Winning the European Champions Cup in San Marino in 2015

2. My wins and prizes at the 2013-2016 European Youth Championships

3. Prize-winning place at the 51st QubicaAMF World Cup in Las Vegas in 2015 (not a victory or title, but a very important event)

4. Winning RedExpress Russian Open in 2013

5. Titles that I received during my studies in the USA: 2017 Rookie of the Year, 2018 Player of the Year, 2019 and 2020 Tennessee Female Amateur Athlete of the Year, as well as our victory in The National Championship among student teams

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What are your future plans?

At the moment, it is difficult for me to say what will happen next because of the pandemic. But I would really like to start participating in PWBA tournaments this summer, if they happen. I would also like to return to the international arena and represent Russia again at various tournaments and Championships. 

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We thank Maria for the information and photo materials provided.


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