BILLIARD GAMES: Snooker. No obvious challenger to Stephen Hendry's position as the world's number one snooker player emerged in 1996, either before or after the remorseless Scot won his sixth world professional title at Sheffield, Eng., in May. The much-criticized ranking system would have put Hendry's compatriot John Higgins in front had he qualified for the final of the Grand Prix tournament at Bournemouth, Eng., in October, but his chance disappeared in the third round when he lost 5-3 to Tony Jones of England. Hendry himself stumbled in the first round of the tournament. Peter Ebdon of England lost his chance to overhaul Hendry by losing 5-3 to Mark Bennett of Wales in the first round at Bournemouth. The event was won by Mark Williams of Wales, who was elevated to fourth position in the provisional world rankings after his 9-5 victory over Euan Henderson of Scotland. Earlier, Ebdon had won the Regal Masters tournament at Motherwell, Scot. In November Hendry, Higgins, and Alan McManus won the World Cup for Scotland with a final-round victory of 10-7 over Ireland. (SYDNEY RISKIN) BOWLING The fully packed year in international bowling started in 1996 in Helsinki, Fin., with national teams competing for the Cup of Europe. The tournament was first scheduled to be bowled in Israel, but because of uncertainty regarding the safety of the participants, the European federations voted in favour of moving the event to Helsinki. There, 22 men's and 18 women's teams gathered in late May. In both divisions the teams played one-game matches in a round-robin format. In the women's tournament, Finland lost only two matches to win the championship. Norway and Sweden finished second and third, respectively. In the men's competition Sweden and Finland tied in match points, but Sweden's quintet finished first because it had knocked down more pins. Norway won the bronze medal. Individually, Finland's Pauliina Aalto paced both the men and the women with a 218.29 average. Kai Virtanen of Finland led the men with 217.33. Early in August young players were invited to Hong Kong for the fourth world youth championships. Bowlers from 31 countries accepted the invitation. For the girls and boys, the events were singles, doubles, teams (4 players), all events (18 games), and masters (round-robin for 16 top players of all events). By the conclusion of the championship, 11 countries had shared the medals. Taiwan performed capably, capturing for the island four gold medals and one bronze. Japan and Venezuela were successful, winning two titles apiece. The remaining golds were won by Colombia and South Korea. In September in Calgary, Alta., 16 nations bowled for the second World Tenpin Team Cup. During the tournament all teams bowled three round-robin matches, with the three best teams proceeding to the final round. In the men's division Scandinavia dominated, with Finland placing first, Sweden second, and Denmark third. In the women's final the U.S. and Finland bowled to a tie. In the following two-frame roll-off, Finland won 56-40. Malaysia finished third. In the AMF World Cup tournament in Belfast, N.Ire., in November Paeng Nepomuceno of the Philippines won the men's competition, defeating Drew Hylen of the United States 243-172 in the final. Cara Honeychurch of Australia was the women's champion. (YRJ SARAHETE)

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