I recently competed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. My sport is Lawn Bowls, and I competed in the Para Triples event which is for Athletes with Disabilities.
This was to be my second Commonwealth Games, my previous being 2002 which was the last time my event featured in the Games. The previous occasion, we came home with a Bronze and with a much stronger team this time, but we were certainly hoping to medal again.
We flew into Glasgow about two weeks before the games, marking the occasion with a massive dose of flatulence as we touched down, which was nearly considered an act of terrorism. Lesson learnt, copious amounts of Heinekens and crappy food over the course of 24 hrs is not smart travelling. So embarrassed!!
Our first 5 days were spent in the seaside town of Ayr where we mixed up training and group activities to overcome Jet Lag. Our big event was to attend the Ayr Races in fancy dress which certainly drew some looks. In groups were had to punt and also carry out a random act of kindness. Our random act was to give a rather elderly couple (from memory 89 and 91 yrs old) a box of chocolates with a card. Unfortunately the pre-prepared card read “Have a great life!” which kind of gave me a bit of a chuckle. And to top off the day we backed the first 3 winners, happy days!
After a few days of training in Ayr we moved into the village which was great! You hear nightmare stories about athlete villages ie: we were told a nasty bug was doing the rounds before we arrived, but complete rubbish. The rooms and buildings were brand new and very homely! The dining hall was monstrous and, when full, a real sight to be seen I tell you. It’s rather crazy, especially coming from a sport like lawn bowls, mixing with all these obviously very fit amazing athletes. Honestly it’s hard not to be a little bit self-conscious.
After a week of training at our competition venue, finally the opening ceremony had arrived and it was such a highlight last time, so I just couldn’t wait. Meeting various Aussie athletes as we walked together from the village to the stadium was humbling and some of the conversations, I will never forget. Having a few hundred athletes in the tunnel together before entering the stadium with the Aussie – Aussie – Aussie – oi – oi – oi! chant going nuts is really awesome stuff. Having your country announced over the P.A and walking into a massive stadium with a massive amount of noise, that stuff just rocks! No wonder athletes in other sports keep putting themselves through constant agony to keep receiving those adrenaline rushes!
Competition wise for us was a bit of a bummer as our event didn’t start till Day 5. Therefore the first 4 days were spent at the Bowls venue cheering on our teammates in the other disciplines. Speaking of teammates, my boys were Tim and Tony, and as a group we were pretty tight! Finally our competition started and we took on New Zealand who had had our measure back in March during our Trans Tasman series. We started strongly and at the halfway mark held a slender lead. Unfortunately for us, twice we held big numbers to get ahead with the opposition Skipper being way off target but getting quite lucky to get the shot. Whilst annoying, that happens in bowls, whereas it felt like we found every hole possible. Anyway we went down by 4 which meant we had to beat our next opponents, South Africa, to progress through to the next round.
On the morning of the match we discovered that we had been moved to the TV game which was fantastic to know friends and family back home would be watching! Somehow a fair few people knew back home before we did and had the opportunity to see us compete. It’s a funny thing with me, as I don’t usually take myself too seriously and as a consequence embarrass myself, or at least give others a good laugh at my expense. This day was to be one of those. As we got ourselves organised on our rink, I faced a problem with the rain looking a little ominous and my raincoat sleeves being far too long for my bowling arm. I decided to use a wrist sweatband to keep the sleeve up. Great idea until I somehow misplaced it and decided to forget the raincoat. In my haste to get organised I had accidentally put the sweatband in my cap and was wearing it with it protruding out the back of my cap!! Being my first ever televised match representing our country was of course the perfect time to do something as stupid as that! Oh well, I wish I could say it helped us win but unfortunately the South Africans bashed us pretty well and in fact went on to meet New Zealand in the final whereby they claimed the Gold and NZ silver. It seemed a bit unfair to draw the 2 best teams in our section I guess, but, oh well.
So from here we were permitted a few commiserative beverages at the pub nearby which I duly took the offer of and was in full voice later that afternoon supporting our teammates who were in a real tough battle at the time. Lesson learnt, pints are bigger than schooners (derr) and Stella Artois will smash any bloke who weighs around 54kg!!
From here the rest of the trip was all about supporting our teammates in their quest for medals of which we ended up with 1 Silver and 3 Bronze.
With the bowls finishing on Day 10, I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Netball Gold Medal match to watch our girls play awesomely to beat the Kiwis! This was a great experience as I had the chance to meet all the girls earlier in the week and get all of their signatures on one of my shirts for my netball mad niece.
To finish the trip of course we had the closing ceremony which I’m annoyed to say I didn’t attend as it sounded like it was going to be crap but instead was simply awesome. Never miss out on experiences regardless of what your preconceived ideas are right? Another lesson there.
So that was my experience at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Let’s hope I can finish my career on the Gold Coast in 2018 with a gold medal!
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