Kiwi lawn bowlers continue to struggle

By Andrew Alderson

The New Zealand bowls team face missing out on the medals for just the second time since the event started in 1930. Photo / Getty Images
The New Zealand bowls team face missing out on the medals for just the second time since the event started in 1930. Photo / Getty Images

The bias of Commonwealth Games history looks ominous for New Zealand's lawn bowlers.

The Black Jacks face missing out on the medals for just the second time since the event started in 1930. The only other time was at London in 1934. Bowls was not contested at Kingston in 1966.

Gold medals have been sparse over the last 20 years too. The last New Zealander to claim one was Katie Portas in the visually-impaired section at Victoria in 1994. Judy Howat and Marie Watson claimed the women's pair title in 1990 before that.

It is an issue Sparc will address later in the year. The sport received an investment of just under $750,000 in 2009-10. The high performance department received $440,000 of that.

Evidence suggests the talent is still in the sport with the four gold and two bronze medals earned at the January 2008 world championships in Christchurch. However some of that momentum was disrupted by the verdict that a Gary Lawson-led four deliberately lost an end against Thailand during the Asia-Pacific tournament in Malaysia last August.

The fines - and ban for Lawson - resulted in some well-publicised in-fighting and painted the sport as fragmented.

Last night the women's pair of skip Jan Khan and lead Manu Timoti were the latest members of the squad after the triples and the men's pair to be ousted from the competition without visiting the podium.

Khan and Timoti bowed out in their quarter-final against Wales, suffering a heavy defeat over the two sets of nine ends - 12-4, 12-2.

"We fought back in that second set to give ourselves a chance. Then at 5-1 down when we were looking at four shots, Anwen [Butten] split the bowls open and got Wales another one. That was a heartbreaker. The harder we tried the worse we played.

"I know Manu struggled but I said don't worry kido, it's tough at the top. We've played a few good games and a few rough ones. We couldn't find the right ground speed or the line. It was tricky but we were still outbowled by a classy pair."

Khan felt they were playing a chasing game.

"Hannah [Smith] was building her bowls around the jack all the time. It was difficult to push the shot through because her line was so good. Perhaps a fully-fledged drive might have been the way to go."

As New Zealand's only current team member who medalled at Melbourne - in the women's pairs with sister Marina - Khan was lamenting the fact her final bowl in the tiebreak against Northern Ireland on Saturday could have helped secure top place in their section. It came to a halt millimetres short.

"We didn't know that at the time when we lost the tie-break. Manu joked that I should have played with [slightly bigger] size five rather than size four bowls because you would have got it."

Singles players Ali Forsyth and Val Smith are also looking unlikely medal contenders at this stage. They resume their competitions this afternoon (New Zealand time).

- NZ Herald

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