When Sophie-Lee Leydesdorff left home this morning for the Superstrike Tenpin Bowling Centre in Hastings, she didn't have any lofty expectations in rolling her arm.

But when all the din subsided on the opening day of the New Zealand Junior/Youth Tenpin Bowling Championship and the TBNZ National Youth Teams' event, Leydesorff found herself on the podium collecting a bronze medal.

The 10-year-old finished third, behind winner Millar Eastham, of North City club in Porirua, and Willow Robert-Smith, of Christchurch, at the champs which is being staged outside of the main centres for the first time.

Asked if she was expecting a medal in the field of 17 before competition in the junior bantam under-13 singles grade started, Leydesdorff replied: "No but I just kept in the back of my mind to give a good go."

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The Arthur Miller School Year 6 pupil thought her concentration was really good today.

"I had more spares [pins] than I usually get," said the youngster who had at least one or two pins for in four games.

Leydesdorff is second in the doubles competition in the grade with Rosie Keene, behind Robert-Smith and fellow Cantabrian Brenda Sampson. The winners won't be known until tomorrow afternoon.

"I know Rosie who was in the trials with me [for the Bay age-group team] and she usually trains with me," she said of the 12-year-old Havelock North Intermediate pupil.

Leydesdorff was born in Auckland but moved with her family to Napier during the Easter break last year.

Her flirtation with tenpin bowling began when she rolled a few balls down the lane with her father Justin Leydesdorff.

"There was a lady at the bowling place who asked me if I wanted to play in a fun competition and I went on to win it so I joined the league," she explained.

Leydesdorff loves it that tenpin bowling provides players another opportunity to put things right if they play a poor shot.

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She pointed out many people incorrectly considered the code as a leisure activity.

"Well, it's actually a sport," she said.

Christian Karatau (blue) checks out the scoreboard while waiting for his turn to roll his arm in the youth under-21 singles grade at the nationals today. Photo/Warren Buckland
Christian Karatau (blue) checks out the scoreboard while waiting for his turn to roll his arm in the youth under-21 singles grade at the nationals today. Photo/Warren Buckland

Kristian Karatau didn't find much traction in the youth under-21 singles grade, losing four of six matches.

"It was pretty tough with the lanes' position," said the Hastings Boys' High School Year 10 pupil who was trading shots with older rivals.

Karatau, who was the 2011 junior nationals U18 champion, in Wellington, is still in the running for the doubles with Cameron Lovell, formerly of Hastings but living in Wellington, tomorrow.

He literally grew up on the lanes because his "nana" Barbara Nonu owns and operates the centre. Nonu raised his mother, Jenny Hollyman, who was just a social player.

Karatau started taking his tenpin bowling more seriously after winning the junior crown.

He puts in 20 hours a week of training and adheres to the edict of putting the bad shots behind to move on.