Commonwealth Games 2014: Norfolk Island ready to roll in bowls

Carmen Anderson
Carmen Anderson hopes to win gold in Glasgow

Of all the 14 venues that will host the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, the Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre is perhaps the most picturesque.

As the best lawn bowlers in the world gather in the shadow of the beautiful art gallery and museum, one woman among them who will be hoping to take home a gold medal for the first time in her country's history is Carmen Anderson.

The 58-year-old will be representing the tiny Pacific nation of Norfolk Island for the fifth time at the Games and will be hoping to improve on her bronze medal from the 1994 competition in Canada, her country's only Commonwealth medal to date.

"The goal is to win the gold medal," commented Carmen, speaking from her home in New South Wales, Australia.

"I would love to get it, as I have not got gold in Commonwealth Games."

Carmen's simple statement of intent is based on an inner confidence that has been formed from years of success on the lawn bowls circuit.

After moving to Norfolk Island from her native Philippines in 1983, Carmen played her first game of bowls in 1985.

She took part in an exhibition at the Norfolk Island Bowling Club - the only bowls club on the Pacific idyll - after being inspired by players on the television show Mazda International Jack High on Australia's ABC network.

She said: "I had never seen lawn bowls until I got to the Norfolk Island. I saw the Mazda International on TV and I thought it looked like an easy sport as I played ten pin bowls.

"I said 'one day I will be on the TV'."

Since those early days, Carmen has established herself as one of the leading lawn bowls players in the world.

She won the gold medal at the Asia Pacific Games in the ladies' singles competition four times.

Two years after her Commonwealth success in 1994, Carmen achieved her crowning glory so far with victory at the World Championships. She was subsequently awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to women's lawn bowls in 1999.

Carmen, reflecting on her 1994 success, said: "It was brilliant. They (people in Norfolk Island) treated me like the Queen.

"Everyone was so proud. I was the only one who won a medal in our part of the world. It put them on the map.

"In 1996, I was so in love with this game. When you like the game, you will get the gold.

An artist's impression of the lawn bowls competition in Glasgow next year
An artist's impression of the lawn bowls competition in Glasgow next year

"You get what you want. I like to win and make a name for myself."

After the 1998 Commonwealth Games, Carmen took a hiatus from the sport and also competed for the Philippines for a brief period.

She now lives in Australia and is a life member of the Norfolk Island Bowling Club.

Carmen is very much back in the colours of the Pacific island after deciding that competing for the Philippines came with a travel schedule that was too demanding for her.

The retired grocery store worker's mind is now focused on winning gold for her adopted country.

She said: "I never thought when I played that first game of bowls in Norfolk Island that one day I would be playing on TV, appearing in bowling magazines, being interviewed by journalists and TV presenters but it just goes to show what you can achieve if you practise, practise and then practise some more."

Norfolk Island welcomed the Queen's Baton Relay, the main event in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, on Sunday, 22 December.

The baton, which carries a message from the Queen and is a symbol of the shared values of the Commonwealth, is travelling around its 70 nations and territories.

Carmen will be one of 10 lawn bowlers who will compete in Glasgow next year for the island. Another will be Tim Sheridan, who as well as being a skilled bowler is the country's finance and sports minister.

Tim Sheridan
Tim Sheridan on the bowling green

"It is not something you would find common place, I believe," he joked. "I haven't seen another politician who is actually competing at the Commonwealth Games."

Thirty-three players and managers will be travelling from the Pacific island to Scotland for the Games, with athletes competing in clay target shooting, pistol shooting, badminton and squash as well as lawn bowls.

Tim will be taking part in his third Games having competed in Manchester and Delhi. He is also a member of the Norfolk Island Bowling Club.

All lawn bowlers who represent the country must belong to the club, with its committee selecting who will compete at the Commonwealth Games and who won't.

He added: "It is an honour to be able to participate as we are such a small island.

"We have something like 1,800 residents and to have the opportunity to represent your country against the best in the world every four years is something that people over here try their best to achieve.

"The Commonwealth Games is the highest achievement we can achieve in Norfolk Island in sport."

Lawn bowls is one of the events you can still get tickets for at the Games. Tim is keen to highlight to sports fans why they should choose lawn bowls next summer.

The 54-year-old said: "The 100m final - the blue riband - is great excitement, but all I can say is in lawn bowls you can get that excitement as well. When you get the top players in the world participating, a game of bowls is incredibly tense.

"If you understand the game of bowls, it is a wonderful sport to participate in as a spectator.

"Get out there, and watch a game or two."

Queen's Baton Relay: Glasgow 2014 has regular updates on the BBC News Channel, BBC World News and online.

Follow the baton's journey @BBCMarkBeaumont on Twitter and on Facebook

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