Our Commonwealth heroes

Lawn Bowls is strongly represented throughout the Commonwealth Nations, and Glasgow 2014 in Scotland featured a number of current World Champions. Team South Africa’s five brilliant para-bowlers made their mark as they won two gold medals.  This is the first Commonwealth Games since 2002 that has included both the physically disabled and visually impaired.

Flying the flag in the pairs were Gyndolene Nel and Herman Scholtz, who took part in the B2/3 classification for visually impaired bowlers. They had won a gold medal earlier in the Games, held from 23 July to 3 August and set the standard for the men’s trips.  It was the B6/B7/B8 combo of Roger Hagerty, Derrick Lobban, and Deon van de Vyver who took Team South Africa’s gold medal total into double figures just three days before the end of the Games.

Lawn Bowls had perhaps one of the most evenly spread medal tallies of the Games, with nations including Australia, England, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Malaysia and Wales that shared the spoils.

South Africa’s men’s trips beat New Zealand 13-11 over 15 thrilling ends of action at the Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre. The team of three describes it as remarkable! With laughing delight, Roger who played second, says it was awesome all round. “We went there expecting a medal and the gold was a bonus! We combined very well as a team.  Derrick and I play at the same club, Morningside in Johannesburg. We played a lot of bowls together in the three months building up to the Commonwealth and that definitely helped.”

With teammate and lead player, Deon, who lives in East London in the Eastern Cape, the team had ten days to practise together before they stepped onto the green and competition commenced in Glasgow.

Derrick describes the opposition as tough and says it was tight all the way.  “When we were 7-1 up after four ends, one doesn’t get complacent, but one starts to feel that you’re in that comfort zone and you just got to keep that pressure on. The New Zealand lead contested well and found her strength. The last stages were very tight, especially when we were up by only a point.”  

The skipper says the team from New Zealand was the toughest they played throughout the Games.

Derrick was a very happy man when they won in the final. “It’s exciting. Coming back with gold is just so important. When you leave for a competition you want to be positive and bringing back a medal does make a difference!”

Deon described the winning feeling as overwhelming.  “At first it was a bit overwhelming to think we’ve done it and achieved a gold medal. It took a while to actually sink in, but we did it! I feel extremely proud to be part of this achievement.”

Bowling is not yet an Olympic sport, so the Commonwealth Games is the absolute highlight of this international sport.

According to Roger it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the three men as a team, to compete at Glasgow 2014. “It was awesome mixing at the same time with able-bodied athletes, obviously we play with able-bodied players all the time. But to mix with athletes in general, was fantastic. The whole camaraderie and vibe of the Commonwealth Games was unbelievable!”

No country has ever won more than three gold medals for bowls at a Commonwealth Games. The bowlers in green and gold have played a huge part in Team SA’s medal mania. Between them they won five gold (three able-bodied, two disability bowls) and two bronze medals for an overall total of seven.

South Africans can look forward to the next big event for disability bowls; the World Championships in New Zealand in February 2015. South Africa is the reigning champs and will give it their all to defend their title.