Sport Focus: Bowls Legend Willie Wood

May 18, 2020

As far as Commonwealth Games legacies go, none come greater than legendary bowler Willie Wood, with a record-breaking eight Games appearances over a 35 year period.

Willie first represented his country in 1966, with his first Commonwealth Games appearance coming in 1974 in New Zealand. He took bronze in the Singles at those Christchurch Games and went on to play at a further seven Games, adding two gold and one silver to his medal tally. He cemented his place in Scottish sporting history at his final Team Scotland appearance at Delhi 2010 where he was the oldest competitor at the Games at the age of 72.

Having grown up in the small East Lothian town of Gifford, Willie began playing bowls age 12, the choice between bowls and swimming made as he could play locally rather than having to catch multiple buses to the swimming pool at North Berwick. His grandfathers, uncles, father and mother all played, his father winning the 1967 Scottish Singles title, so he thought he would give it a go too and was quickly winning accolades and progressing through the ranks.

Despite not playing for three years due to national service obligations in Germany in the 1950s, Willie’s natural talent saw him win the Gifford club championship in his first year back to the sport, the start of an illustrious bowls career.

The Commonwealth Games played a huge role in his career with many treasured memories, the proudest of all being winning Singles gold at Brisbane 1982 and an incredible home-coming to Gifford – a reception in his honour, the town decked out in flags and well-wishers lining the streets – a true hero’s welcome.

His involvement in the Games extended past his own participation as a competitor, an ambassador for Bowls Scotland and lending his wealth of experience to the whole of Team Scotland as Glasgow played host in 2014. He threw the first bowl on the new greens of Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre ahead of the Games, a fitting tribute to his years of commitment to the sport and to his extraordinary Commonwealth Games career.

While his achievements for Team Scotland are impressive enough in their own right, his success wasn’t confined to the Commonwealth Games alone. He is the most capped Scottish bowler in history with over 130 appearances for Scotland over a 40 year period. He also won 15 World Championship medals in his illustrious career including four gold medals at the outdoor championships between 1992 and 2008.

He was awarded the MBE for services to sport in 1992 and was the first bowler inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of fame in 2007.

Although retired from international bowls since 2011, the personal legacy that Willie has contributed to the Scottish sporting world is second to none.

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