Elite competitors reveal the secrets to success in blind bowls at world championship
Sharon Dunk has represented Australia at six world championships, but she still feels nervous every time.
Ms Dunk, who is vision impaired, was one of many players to help take Australia take out the top gong at this year’s World Blind Bowling Championships in northern NSW.
“You always get nervous, especially just before the game,” she says.
Blind bowls players are divided into four eyesight categories, based on the level of their vision impairment.
Each player pairs up with a director who provides instructions about where and how to bowl.
The director stands just in front of the player and uses their foot as a close range target for the player to bowl towards.
Ms Dunk and director Wendy Cartwright have worked together for 16 years.
“She’s like a mother to me,” Ms Dunk says.
“And she’s probably the daughter I never had,” Ms Cartwright adds, as the pair laugh
The player-director partnership can be a tough one to get right.
“I have known directors that see things that they want to do and their player can’t do it, so you’ve got to work as one person,” Ms Cartwright says.
World championship blind bowling is a feat of skill and endurance.
The competition is played across 10 days in a round robin format, with coaching and strict training regimes to prepare.
New Zealand player Kieran Wheeler says he has worked hard to prepare for the event, which is his first world championship.
“Wearing the silver fern is something that everyone in New Zealand dreams of,” he says.
“I’m training three to four times a week on the green and then there’s fitness and mental skills to go along with that as well, so there’s a lot involved when you get to that next level of representing your country.”
The future is bright
The effect of the covid pandemic meant only eight countries attended this year’s event, when usually there would be about a dozen.
Nevertheless, those in the sport are optimistic about the future of blind bowls.
International Blind Bowls Association president Graham Ward says several countries have shown interest in joining future championships.
He says interest in the sport has been growing with the inclusion of bowls in schools, including in Australia and his home country South Africa.
“It was old men’s marbles, as it was labelled, and now the kids are enjoying and it’s becoming a fun sport,” he says.
Mr Ward hopes that, in time, the sport will be added to the Paralympic roster.
It is currently played at the Commonwealth Games.
In the meantime, this year marked Malaysia’s first appearance at the world championship.
Team captain Major Krishnan Nambiar was all smiles as he outlined his big plans for the future.
“Finally we made it!” he says.
“This is the beginning, and definitely we’ll go for the next one in New Zealand in 2026 … with much zeal and enthusiasm.”