Wilson joins the Gold Rush & a Commonwealth Games wrap up
Aaron Wilson has followed in the footsteps of Rob Parella and Kelvin Kerkow, to win the Men’s Singles gold medal. Wilson had a stellar day, completing two wins against world class opposition. His first match was against England’s Robert Paxton. Wilson took an early lead but dropped a four on the 4th end to fall behind by two. But when you watch Wilson, he is not a player to let that put him off. He plays the shot he sees, often not the shot the commentators see and fits the cliché of ‘live by the sword die by the sword.’ It would only be 2 ends later that he picked up his own four to put things back on track. Wilson was playing very well and would not allow Paxton to get back to level terms. Consistently picking up ends, even if they were only one shot was working well for Wilson and Paxton had no answer, eventually running out a 21-16 winner.
That set up a final against Broadbeach local Ryan Bester, representing Canada. It was a mouth-watering encounter for the neutral but one that left some Gold Coast natives unsure of who to support, such is the popularity of Bester. At 5-1 to Bester, it appeared the local knowledge of the green was going to come in handy, but Wilson with that mesmerising stare as his bowls travelled down the green was not going to let Bester fall into a rhythm. In fact a close bowl from Bester early in the game, saw a drive from Wilson with his first bowl. Unconventional, but effective, as he put the jack in the pit. Wilson used his nous well and got the score back to level at 8-8 after 12. The next two ends would prove crucial to the game. A missed drive by Bester allowed Wilson to keep his three and then a conversion shot that was a half a bowl away from being the shot fell out of the head and Wilson would pick up consecutive 3s to lead 14-8. That run of 6 shots was too much for Bester to fight back from. He never gave up but today would be Wilson’s day, becoming the third male to win a Singles Gold and securing Australia 5 of the 10 Gold Medals that were on offer.
Our Men’s Fours team, Barrie Lester, Brett Wilkie, Nathan Rice & Aron Sherriff, would not fare as well as Wilson. They put up a fighting effort that almost saw them get across the line but the genius of Alex Marshall, accompanied with strong play from Paul Foster (Three) & Derek Oliver (Two), proved too good for the Jackaroos combination. A four on the third end put the Australian team in good stead and at 9-4 after 6 ends, the Broadbeach crowd thought they were going to witness another Australian Gold medal. But you can never write off Marshall. Early on he missed some shots that surprised the crowd and this wasn’t going to continue happening for the rest of the game. In fact, after the fourth end, Marshall never lost an end where he had the last bowl. It is often lost when watching at home or from the sidelines but the inferred pressure that is put on you when playing Marshall is immense. This is a man that has won 4 Gold Medals previously and even when presented with an opportunity, knowing that if you miss it, you will pay dearly, all shots are that much harder to make. And so it was on the last end. Despite taking a two shot lead into the last end, the Australians needed to stop the Marshall juggernaut. As it turned out, it would be Oliver and then Foster that would set the head up nicely for Scotland. Holding three shots and the game, they watched as Sheriff ran at the head with his first bowl. Sherriff thought he had it but the bowl turned more than he thought and he was still three down. Marshall tried to cover for the back but accidentally drew a 4th shot and widened the target, Marshall’s head in his hands an obvious sign that he wasn’t happy with himself. A wise man once said, it doesn’t matter how big the target is, you still have to hit it and unfortunately for Sherriff he was narrow, Scotland could claim the Gold, a 5th for Marshall, 4th for Foster a 2nd for Duncan & Oliver (and 2nd for these Games after winning the triples), but if Sherriff is anything like me, he will still be replaying that last shot over in his mind and thinking of what if? But you can’t think like that, you can’t focus on the last bowl and ignore all of the brilliant bowls you played that got you to that final game or to be in that position in the Gold Medal playoff. The research shows that a bronze medallist is happier than a silver medallist. A silver medallist thinks about how close they were to winning gold, a bronze medallist thinks about how close they were to finishing empty handed. I hope our boys that won Silver can enjoy it and not be bogged down in what could have been.
The other final played today was the Women’s Pairs. It would be Malaysia that recovered from a 0-7 start against South Africa that would fight back to win. They were still down 3-12 after 10 ends but they won 6 of the last 8 ends including a 4 on end 15 to have a 15-13 lead going into the last end. A one for South Africa was not enough, Malaysia winning 15-14.
That leave the country medal standings for Lawn Bowls looking like the following;
New Zealand 1-1-0
South Africa 0-3-2
Cook Islands 0-0-1
Norfolk Island 0-0-1
Australia & Scotland have to walk way happy, multiple Gold Medals is nothing to sneeze about. The Three Australians of Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott & Rebecca Van Asch and the two Scottish players Ronald Duncan & Derek Oliver to walk away with Two Gold Medals is impressive in any sport. The three teams that won one bronze will also be wrapped, the first ever Commonwealth Games medal for Cook Islands, the first ever Lawn Bowls medal for Malta and only the second medal for Norfolk Island. Then even beyond this list, we can’t forget the story of Jamaica, the fact they were even here but for Singles representative Andrew Newell to defeat eventual bronze medallist Robert Paxton was a highlight for me!
But it’s not about what I think, so I’ve tried to get some opinions from the people that matter. I’ve interviewed an able bodied player, a Para player, a Volunteer, a Coach and a Mum to see what they have thought from their success. Let’s see what they think;
Josh Thornton – Gold Medal Winner in the Para Triples
Can you sum up the feelings you had once the Gold was secured?
Feeling was euphoric! I was emotional, happy, just a roller coaster of emotions. Relief as well.
The three of you have had a great tournament, what has it been like to play with your teammates?
Playing with Tony and Ken was great. We’ve played as a team and that’s why we’ve done well. They are two amazing blokes!
How does this compare to your Australian Open win?
It’s different to winning the Oz open. Winning the open with one of your best mates is amazing. But I think the commonwealth games gold trumps it haha. (Editor’s note – Can no-one tell Lester that Josh said that!)
What are the celebration plans? (Asked and answered in the morning)
Celebrating tonight. Hopefully the boys 4’s have a win along with Aaron in the singles and it will complete a great event for the Jackaroos.
Chris Lee – Commonwealth Games volunteer and Social Media score updater (That’s an official title)
What has it been like to be a volunteer at the games? It almost seems like you have the best seats in the house?
Being a volunteer has been great. Been very close to the action and involved in the inner working of the event. We also got an invite to participate in the rehearsal for the opening ceremony as an athlete which was amazing to walk out onto the track. I can only imagine how Bec and her fellow athletes felt when it was for real in the night.
How amazing has it been to be so close to the success of the team and especially your team mate? (Lee plays with Rebecca Van Asch at Invermay)
Although we haven’t spent much time with Bec it’s been great to be along for the ride. In some way we have been able to share her success with her and her family. As I was working when she won the 4’s I got great access to her for some great personal photos and then we had some good pics with family and Swampie friends when we saw her briefly after the triples.
Any chance you’re putting your hand up in four years’ time in Birmingham?
Deb (His wife and fellow volunteer) and I have discussed Birmingham and yes there is a big chance we will again put our hands up. It’s in the long term calendar.
Steve Glasson – Australian Coach
How do you sum up the last week and a half?
Exciting, fantastic, challenging and exhausting but extremely rewarding. I’m very proud of the entire group, players and staff.
Did the team reach its goals?
I/we never went in with a focus on the outcome. We knew we had extremely competitive disciplines in all events but sport, in particular bowls can produce results which can humble the very best. We also knew (and it was confirmed) we had amazing and quality opposition from all corners of the globe so to answer your question, I believe the team exceeded our goals.
It’s been a long preparation leading into this, are you ready to do it all again for the next cycle?
We have well and truly started/advanced our plans and preparations as far forward as World Bowls 2020 and Comm Games 2022 already. We will complete a robust review of this campaign and look to improve in many areas.
Rebecca Van Asch – Two Time Gold Medallist
How does it feel, a two time Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist?
Even a day later I don’t think any of it has quite sunk in yet. It all still very surreal. I’m just so over the moon with our results this fortnight. For us personally but also for the overall team as well. This has been a very successful campaign for our Jackaroos.
Had it been brought up before that no Australian had previously won a 2nd Gold?
I had no idea until one of the interviewers mentioned that we were the first Australians to win 2 gold at one Games. That’s a pretty special stat. Obviously the 5 a side format helps with that, which hasn’t always been the case.
At what stage did you realise the game was over?
We got out to a very good lead, but you never know in bowls and the game is never over until it isn’t mathematically possible. We just kept our heads down and tried to keep working away.
It was a perfect run in the Triples, undefeated and the Finals seemed to run so smoothly, is that a fair assessment?
Things certainly went a little smoother in the triples, we didn’t have as many close matches. Things got close against England in the semi with score level with about 4 to go. But we hang tough and stuck to the game plan.
Did you want to thank anyone for the journey that got you here?
I’ve only just logged back into social media and I have been so overwhelmed with the support of everyone back home. I have so many messages that I still need to reply to and I will get to them I promise. It has been a fantastic journey and having my family here to share in the moment and some wonderful friends has made it even more special. Thanks to you all.
Vicki Quail – Rebecca Van Asch’s Mum
How were you feeling seeing Bec win her 2nd gold medal?
I am still teary and feel immensely proud and humble thinking of Bec’s achievements this morning. Last night when the team won gold for the second time I was (unbelievable for me I know) speechless and I had another massive lump in my throat. Trish (Carla’s Mum) and I looked at each other and just hugged it was surreal.
The last 4 years have been a bit of a roller coaster, how is it as a Mum to see Bec miss out on the team but then also fight back to be where she is now?
Do you know we have never really discussed 4 years ago? It was such a raw emotional time and without words we just got on with life. For Bec the rebuilding process began and for the rest of the family and myself we have always consistently been there to assist in any way Bec has needed us for. I am sure every one of us who knows Bec, knows you never give up and as my Mum told her from a very young age “in life you always have to roll with the punches”. So I think that saying has stood her in good stead for whatever life may throw at you. Self-belief, determination, humbleness and being very good at what you do is how I believe she has achieved this massive accomplishment and good on her!
What has it been like in the crowds, it seems like such a positive atmosphere?
The crowds certainly have lifted the Aussies in their games, and there have been many supporting the other countries too. But I’d have to say the “Tassies” in the crowd were definitely very vocal and rode every bowl for Bec. Truly, I am so happy I am up here and was able to witness Bec and her team winning gold not once but twice haha and I wouldn’t have missed it for quids. Love you all for being so supportive it means the world from one very happy Mumma!
That’s it from me. A big thankyou to the following, Chris Lee and his updates of Bec’s matches when he wasn’t working! Bowls Australia for their constant score updates, the Comm Games team for having live scores on the app, without these three things, I wouldn’t be able to keep you up to date with what was happening. To the bemusement of one reader, I’m not at the Games, I’m home in Tasmania, so without information I would be making most of the article up. Thanks to Rebecca Van Asch and the other players, coaches, officials etc that have passed on quotes and or pictures, it has been very much appreciated. And finally thank you to you the reader. It has been heartening to see many positive comments about the articles I have been writing. It was a vision of Bowls Tasmania to pass on more information to our bowlers but I think we have provided information to more than just Tasmanian Bowlers, even if I do unashamedly have a Tasmanian bias! Good luck on the green and keep an eye out for our coverage from the National Sides Championships!
By David Genford