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Inspiring Kentucky teen is varsity bowler without having use of her arms

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

If you think it’s hard to bowl a decent game with a typical approach, what Whitney Foster does will blow you away; she bowls competitively with no hands.

As impossible as that may sound, every word of it is true. As featured in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Foster is a senior on the Louisville (Ky.) Manual High bowling team. She has recorded some of the state’s better scores this season -- she has bowled a 203 game during the 2012-13 campaign, which is better than one of the scores put up by the state’s individual runner-up in 2011-12 during her five game set. All of that is impressive, but it becomes even more awe inspiring when one learns that Foster is bowling without any hands.

Instead, the senior uses an elaborate set up to prepare and release a ball. First, she cradles a bowling bar in her right arm, trapped between her biceps and forearm. She releases the ball by bending forward and gyrating to create spin for it to travel down the lane. She has no other choice, because Foster was born with a rare genetic disorder called arthrogryposis, a condition which leaves her muscles and tendons underdeveloped and very frail.

“Anybody would look at her and say that she can’t bowl,” Manual coach Bob Hillerich told the Courier-Journal. “They’d say you need working hands and arms. But what she’s overcome, it’s just been amazing.”

Foster has to have a teammate place the ball in her arms -- she’s too weak to lift a 12-pound bowling ball -- but she can do everything else on her own. That’s important, because Foster is a teenager who has spent most of her life feeling ostracized from more healthy teens. Now, being part of a team and competing on her own has made an enormous difference.

“It was really cool that they didn’t judge me and that they made me feel like a part of the team,” Foster said of her teammates, who have welcomed her since she signed up for the team as a sophomore. “They made me want to be there.”

Her teammates want her to be there because she can help the team with her score, too. While Foster can’t generate the momentum or spin that her teammates can, her accuracy can often make up the difference, helping her contribute a solid score to Manual’s varsity team.

“Bowlers generate velocity with their feet and their swing,” Hillerich said. “She obviously has no swing, but it’s amazing how accurate she can be.”

Accurate ... and happy to be just one of the girls.

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