Gazmine Mason was 10 years old when she was first introduced to bowling.
That was 15 years ago. In the time since, she has gone on to graduate college and join the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, or PWBA. She is the only Black woman to win not one but three gold Olympic medals. In total, she has, 10 Olympic medals – three gold, six silver and one bronze.
“I was first introduced to bowling as a recreational activity when I was 10. My dad’s friends, coaches Marty Jones and Monica Scott, started a youth bowling program to get the inner-city kids off the streets. Coach Marty told my dad and I about the opportunities that were out there and that I should try it. So I did, and the rest was history,” Gazmine said.
Gazmine ended her high school career at Cranston High School East as one of the nation’s top bowling recruits. She had a perfect 300 game. She won three state championships, in 2011, 2012 and 2013. During her senior year in 2013, her 225 average score was the best in the state. She also won the Rhode Island Pepsi state title in 2012.
As a student, she excelled in the classroom, making the National Honor Society.
“My favorite teachers and classes were accounting with Ms. Narcisi, anatomy with Ms. Conte and sports marketing with Mr. Auth. They have all helped me along my journey,” she said. “To be honest, I honestly wasn’t a fan of science until I took Ms. Conte’s class. And of course, I can’t forget the best guidance counselor out there, Ms. Riley. She was also a big help along my journey.”
Gazmine remembers selling candy out of her backpack at school to help pay for a national tournament she wanted to compete in as a member of Jr. Team USA.
Students are allowed five official visits from colleges. Gazmine was scouted by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, Valparaiso University in Indiana, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Norfolk State University in Virginia, and the University and Nebraska.
She decided in her sophomore year at University of Nebraska that she knew she wanted to continue competing in her sport, but now at the highest level.
Gazmine is very proud of her bowling success.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be an Olympian … I hope there are more of those in my future,” she said. “Being an Olympian has blessed me with a platform that allows me to share my story to educate, inspire, and empower others. The Olympics is cool. While we’re not in the actual Olympics we are still governed by the International Olympic Committee. We compete equivalently every two years. The Pan Am games is where I won my first gold in Panama.”
Gazmine and her family have started a company called Got Game.
“As an African American woman, I represent both equally while competing in a nontraditional competitive sport. I compete in a nontraditional sport that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. I am a woman in this sport and a black woman in this sport. The mission of Got Game is to give equal opportunities, and to teach that bowling is a real sport. There is a very fine line between recreational activity and a sport with an Olympic team,” she said.
Gazmine is trying hard to reach other women in the Black community.
“Black girls can bowl, too. More black women than you think compete, especially collegiately. I want to see more on the higher level,” she said. “I am continuing to share my story with people … I can have an impact, and I want to help.”
Since graduating college, Gazmine says it has been a struggle to stay on the professional circuit given the costs involved.
“It’s been very difficult … With traditional sports they are part of a team, and get funding. We pay for food, travel, entrance fee for tournaments, lodging, everything,” she said.
The top 32 bowlers of a tournament will get some sort of payment, and the top five will appear on a TV show and are guaranteed more money.
“If you are winning consistently, you can do it full time. Women who bowl are also college coaches, nurses, teachers, women who cannot afford to not work,” Gazmine said.
Gazmine feels the U.S. needs to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to taking bowling seriously.
“In Singapore, Malayasisa, Japan, South Korea, the women’s leagues are all strong. They take it seriously. They know it is a sport. They win money and medals,” she said. “Some people just don’t know how to make sense of it. There’s a whole other side of it.”
While there is no bowling currently, Gazmine is still working to stay in top form.
“I do practice drills, I am always learning different hand positions, how to play the lane and manipulate the ball. I work out for my legs, core and abs. For the mental portion I am reading books and speaking to psychologists,” she said.
She added: “Bowling is actually more mental than physical. You don’t need perfect form – it’s 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. You have to be confident and mentally sound.”
Before COVID-19 hit, Gazmine had done speaking tours all over the country, including stops at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Clubs, Mount Pleasant High School, the University of Maryland, Norfolk State and Beat the Streets in Providence.
“I am sharing my story to inspire,” she said. “The message is never to become a pro bowler, but to do whatever you’re passionate about. Don’t quit.”
To learn more about Gazmine and Got Game, visit gazminemason.com.