Foster Bowled Over by Recent Success

May 7, 2010

When Paul Foster was down and out of football with an ankle injury at the age of 12, little did he think he would be on top of the world in the sport of bowls 25 years on.

The 37-year-old was confirmed as world number one last month at the end of a vintage indoor season which saw him win a host of tournaments on the World Bowls Tour – including the Scottish International Open. Despite winning three world indoor singles titles in 1998, 2001 and 2005 this is the first time that the man from Troon in Ayrshire has attained the coveted number one title which he describes as the pinnacle of his career so far.

Foster is now setting his sights on outdoor domination as one of Team Scotland’s brightest medal hopes at this year’s Commonwealth Games. At the recent Eight Nations test event in Delhi, Foster took bronze despite some challenging conditions, and this further success has earned him the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month Award for April and £500 towards training and competition costs.

The scheme, being run by Commonwealth Games Scotland in conjunction with Clydesdale Bank as part of its programme of support to Team Scotland, is open to athletes in any of the 17 participating sports who are eligible to represent Scotland at this year’s Games in Delhi.
Looking back on how he got involved in the sport Foster said: “I damaged my ankle playing football which put me out of action for a good few months. My dad Hugh was a keen bowler who competed at County level so he got me involved in the sport. I told him I thought it was an old man’s game but he said to just try it the once. I took to it like a duck to water and I loved it straight away and so I decided to stick to bowls.

“It has proved to be the right call because finishing the indoor season as world number one is probably the biggest high of my career.”

Paul is no stranger to the Commonwealth Games arena, having claimed gold four years ago in Melbourne in the pairs event, alongside former world number one Alex Marshall. And although he will be going it alone in Delhi this year playing singles, he would love to savor more success in India to cap a memorable year.

“You can’t get any higher than representing your country at singles. In pairs if you are struggling through a match your partner will help you through it, however in singles it is totally different. You are on your own out there with more pressure on yourself, however I am used to it from the indoor game.

“I would love to be confirmed in the team for Delhi and if I could win another gold medal for Scotland I would be over the moon.

Comparing lawn bowls with other sports in the Games team he explained: “People don’t think you have to be fit to play bowls, but this is so far from the truth. Games can last 2-3 hours and they can be mentally draining so I am trying to get myself really fit and in the best possible shape for Delhi. The heat will also be a big factor. It was between 38-46 degrees when we were there in April, although it should be a bit cooler in October.

“The bowlers have also been getting support from the experts at the sportscotland institute of sport for the first time, and they came out to Delhi with us for the test event. They took our core temperatures and measured our hydration levels to ensure we were drinking enough. Some of the results were quite surprising and it was a magnificent help. I only used to drink a couple of cups of water during a game and now I know this is not enough. We will continue to take this all on board to shape our preparations for Delhi.”

But to strike gold again Paul will also have to overcome the challenge of competing on an outdoor synthetic green, the first time such a surface has been used at a Commonwealth Games. And that is forcing him to relearn everything he has honed in his game over the last 25 years. He added: “I’ve just competed in the Eight Nations Test Series in Delhi where I won bronze and I’m glad I went because it was a vital learning experience for the Games.

“Out there we are competing on a synthetic surface which rolls nothing like the grass or indoor carpets. The lines are much tighter, that means you only throw the bowl four or five inches outside of the jack rather than the two feet I would normally use to draw a bowl in. The speed of the surface was also much slower than the indoor carpet.

“That’s a huge difference and in the first couple of matches out there I only just scraped through, however, I then managed to borrow bowls that were better suited to the surface.

“Basically I had to start from scratch and forget everything I have learned over the years in order to adjust my game, so I was delighted to finish third in those circumstances.

“Over the next few months I will be playing in a mixture of indoor and outdoor events to adapt my technique.”

Foster believes that playing in the test event which was funded jointly by Commonwealth Games Scotland and sportscotland, could prove vital in his quest for success in October – as well as the help of Clydesdale Bank.
“What I have learned will certainly boost my chances of finishing even higher when I go back to Delhi for the Games.
“I’d like also to thank the Clydesdale Bank for putting up an award that will help me fund the training and preparation I’ll need to be ready.”

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