An impressive Scottish team heads to the USA this week (14-30 September) for a test event which counts as part of the selection process for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Alex Marshall, Paul Foster, David Peacock, Caroline Brown, Michelle Cooper and Margaret Letham stand out from a team list which reads like a who’s who of Scottish bowling. But amongst them are less recognisable players, or at least for the moment.
Becky Craig, a 26 year old from Alloa in Clackmannanshire, is not a household name but is progressing well and, at the 8 Nations in Glasgow, won the Pairs gold medal with Lorraine Malloy.
“Winning the gold medal at Kelvingrove certainly ranks as one of the highlights”, says Craig, who began aged nine. Along the way she played football with Stirling’s Forthbank girls team before focussing on just bowls.
There is a serious edge to this month’s competition across the Atlantic. Bowls Scotland’s National Coach, David Gourlay is aiming to keep his elite squad match tight.
“It’s about extending the grass season for Scotland’s elite squad, at a time when the game traditionally winds down in Scotland, as well as winning matches”, says Gourlay.
“Our challenge at this stage of the season is to find non-Commonwealth countries that can give us high level competition. The USA Test in particular is about maintaining our focus on grass greens and we know we will get a high level of competition in all of these games.”
For the Scots the USA Test is part of the selection process for the Glasgow 2014 Games, which began this spring and ends next April, when the final five men and women will be picked.
Craig has been part of that process since it opened in April. A mother to two young children she has had to get used to juggling family commitments with twice monthly squad training sessions and selection competitions.
“It’s been an incredibly tough year, and definitely the hardest one I’ve had in bowls,â€ says Craig. “I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase in Glasgow for squad days, the 4 Nations, 8 nations and Home Internationals.”
“I’m very lucky that my husband, Scott, has been a big help taking all his holidays to look after the children so that I can bowl.”
Craig has been here before. She was part of the elite squad from which the Delhi 2010 Games team was selected.Â She missed out on a team place then and, competing for a small number of places with a large pool of top level Scottish women’s bowlers, she is realistic about her chances of being selected for the Glasgow Games.Â Nevertheless she is enjoying the intense challenge of the selection process this time around and can feel the progress she is making.
“Glasgow is the one that everyone wants to play in and it’s given me a real focus to work towards”, she continues.
£The standard amongst the other girls is really high, and if I don’t get in this time I wouldn’t be disappointed because I’m proud that I’m in there and I’m giving David something to think about.”
“When I first started the squad training in May and saw all the people I was up against it was quite daunting. But it’s been a phenomenal year. I’ve improved a lot this year as a result of all the practice and games and I’m much more confident, especially after winning gold.”
“The plan for America is to keep playing well and impressing. I’m aiming for the future as well. I’m only 26 so I’ve got many years in front of me so if I don’t make it this time then I know I will at some point.”
30 September: USA Test at the Groves, Newport Harbour and Laguna Beach, USA
Photo Credit: Rob Eyton-Jones