Mary Rakin becomes first U.S. Gold Medalist at Junior Worlds

Colorado Springs, Colorado: The Billiard Congress of America [BCA] fielded an outstanding group of up-and-comers on its Junior Team USA roster, which traveled to Sydney, Australia in mid-November to compete in the World Pool Billiard Association annual Junior World Championships. For the first time in the event's history, a U.S. player captured a junior world title, when Mary Rakin (shown at right) defeated teammate Anna Kostanian for the Girls 19 & under gold medal.

On day two of competition, No.12 seeded Mary Rakin won her first match with a score of 7-5 against You-Ram Cha of Korea, then followed up with an easy 7-2 second round defeat of Denise Wilkinson of New Zealand. Mary continued her winning streak by logging another 7-2 score against Canada's Marina Linguerri to secure a spot in the semifinals, where she unexpectedly pocketed the 9-ball for a 7-4 win over Hsiao-Wen Wu of Taiwan.

Coming from the one-loss side after a narrow 1 point loss to Keng-Chun Lin of Taiwan in her first round, No.3 seeded Anna Kostanian mounted a strong comeback by defeating Jennifer Fleckenstein of Switzerland with a score of 7-0 to advance. Another quick 7-2 win against Hsiao-Wen Wu placed Anna in the semifinal, where she defeated China's Zhu-Quing Bi to catch up with Mary. At the qualifying BCA Junior Nationals Championships earlier in the year, Anna had won their last head-to-head, but the tables were turned in Sydney.

In the all-U.S. girls final, Anna turned up the heat, but Mary proved to be up to the challenge and held on to win the Junior World Championship honors -- and the gold medal -- by a one-point margin, with a final score of 7-6. With that win, the USA garnered its first-ever junior world 9-ball title. [ recordbook ]

The focused and determined young women of Junior Team USA were the stars of the competition by making history with their outstanding performances. "I am absolutely thrilled that the USA won this World title" said team leader Tanya Holmes, "The girls played so well, it shows the World that our girls are a force to be reckoned with. They proved that they have what it takes to make it to the top."

While the U.S. athletes gained plenty of high-profile experience, the results didn't favor everyone in the remaining brackets. In the boy's fields, both U.S. pairs were eliminated by a single player. In the 19 and under group, local Australian Jason Fischer was responsible for eliminating both Justin Bergman and Daniel Rakin over the course of play; in 14 and under, Yeugen Novosad of the Ukraine defeated Ryan Dunn in an early round, and Austin Murphy further along. Newcomer Liz Lovely made her world debut in Sydney, but narrowly missed the semi-final cut in the Girls 14 and under.