For 15 days halfway around the world, Liz Kuhlkin was treated like a celebrity. Except for some culture shock, she felt like one, too.
The former Schalmont High School bowling standout and current Nebraska collegiate star recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hong Kong, where she represented Junior Team USA at the World Youth Bowling Championships.
Not only did she gain a tremendous insight into many new cultures, but she also came away with two medals, including a gold with partner Sarah Lokker, in the girls’ doubles. She also picked up a bronze medal in the individual all-events category.
“The whole trip was amazing,” said Kuhlkin, who begins her senior season at Nebraska this week. “Obviously, we all went there hoping for a chance to bring back a medal. When you have the opportunity to come away with a gold medal, it’s unbelievable. I went there with certain expectations. I wanted to medal, but to tell you the truth, to win a gold medal is almost surreal.”
Kuhlkin has already achieved numerous career milestones, including earning All-America recognition twice at Nebraska, where she led the Cornhuskers to the national championship two years ago as the tournament MVP. Nebraska also finished second in the nation a year ago. She recently finished fourth in the U20 division of the Junior Gold Championships in Buffalo. As a scholastic star, she led the nation in scoring average.
But at the World Youth Bowling Championships, she felt like she was in the Olympics.
“There were so many people there who would run right up to you and hug you and say congratulations,” she said. “It’s like we were world champions. But in a sense, we are world champions, at least on our level. I definitely believe this experience and this trip will pay off for me in the future.”
Kuhlkin said it took her quite a while to get acclimated to Hong Kong after arriving there Aug. 1.
“There is a 12-hour time difference, and it took me five days to get used to it,” she said with a laugh. “We got there earlier than everybody else on the team, because the Chinese Bowling Association chose us to participate in some charity events. But for four or five days, I kept waking up at 3 a.m. in the morning.”
Kuhlkin said she was surprised that the competition went so well, considering the climate.
“I was pretty nervous about the conditions over there, because it was extremely hot,” she said. “It was miserable, to tell you the truth. The humidity was about 90 percent every day, and the heat index was 105 degrees. I was nervous that the lane conditions would be different because of that. But fortunately, they had an air-conditioned facility, and things went pretty much as I expected them to.”
Kuhlkin was also concerned about what she would eat in Hong Kong.
“I’m allergic to seafood, and they have so much of that there,” she said.
“But I knew that going in. I knew I would have a little tougher time finding as many options to eat. But they had all kinds of fried food and noodles. Plus, they put soy sauce on everything. I don’t want to see soy sauce again. But they also had McDonald’s there, and we ate at the Outback Steak House once.”
As she prepared to go back to school for her final season, Kuhlkin said she was very happy she had the opportunity to make the trip.”
“It was amazing to see how they live over there. I had a chance to see so many different people from different cultures. I’m glad I went,” she said.
“Not only did I meet so many new people, but I got my name out there on a national basis. Maybe when I get out of college, I can get a ball contract with a major company.”