Melanie Inness and George Miller a gold medal partnership

Melanie Inness and George Miller made headlines this Summer, winning Gold as part of the B2-B3 Mixed Pairs team in their debut appearance at the Commonwealth Games. This was the third gold medal in a successful series for our Para bowls team who ended the event with three medals from three disciplines. The Mixed Pairs team made up by Skip, Robert Barr and his Director, Sarah Jane Ewing, went undefeated throughout the event on their way to the top of the podium.

We spoke to the Mel (MI) and George (GM) to find out more about the secrets to their successful partnership at Birmingham 2022, read the Q&A below…

Q1) George can you tell us more about your role as Director and how you worked with Mel before and during the Games?

GM: “The director’s role is primarily to be the visually impaired (VI) bowler’s eyes on and off the green.

“During games and practice the trajectory of the bowl is described, this gives the bowler a feel for the rink, when the bowl comes to rest its position in relation to the jack and other bowls is described thus providing a picture and appreciation of the type of next shot which may need to be played.

“Off the green the partnership continues as we are going to different venues all with different hazards for a VI person, for example in Leamington Spa there were several foot paths laid over park land which were, in places, quite uneven requiring a steadying arm for support. One of the things when staying in different hotels is the need to note the location of fire escapes etc., any VI needs support in an emergency. 

“Finally, there needs to be a personal understanding, Mel and I just seem to 'click' we are both emotional people with similar appreciation of humour and generally just get on well together as well as having similar appreciation of the game and teamwork.”

Q2) Melanie, tell us more about how you prepared for the Games and how your relationship with George developed during preparations for and during the Games? 

MI: “I started preparation for the Commonwealth Games last summer. With COVID restrictions only a few squad sessions took place at Northfield. I did a lot of exercises with the help of my husband, Stuart. George would come through to Edinburgh and we would go through to Saltcoats to have practice sessions. 

“Once I knew that I was going to the Commonwealth Games and George would be directing me we would meet at my new bowling club in Balerno. George is a very good influence on me. His calm nature certainly helps me to focus and with the details he provides re lengths, how the rink plays etc it definitely improved the visualisation I need to bowl.” 

Q3) What was the support like from friends, family and fellow club members during and when you returned from the Games?

MI: “The support has been amazing from everyone but particularly Stuart. He has made such a commitment, taking me to bowling, calling the head which is vital when you can’t see the bowls and jack and being there all the way through the journey. 

“We joined Balerno Bowling Club this year. I have had so much support and encouragement from all the members. 

“With the total commitment this year there has been little to no time to see friends but they have been such a support in the background.” 

GM: “Support from family, friends and club members has been fabulous, the number of people who came to the games to support Scotland was enormous.

“Back home to club and even people in the street congratulate you, it’s a great feeling.”

Q4) You’ve both appeared on tv, in newspapers etc this Summer, what impact do you think the Para teams’ success has had on bowls and para bowls?

MI: “The knock-on effect has been extremely positive. I have met a number of people who watched bowling for the first time. Being a para bowler has shown that bowling is available to everyone. As a visually impaired bowler a string is used to indicate the middle of the rink, recently I met a group of ladies who thought the string was a great guide to improving their bowling.” 

GM: “The Para team success overall has been a little understated, a clean sweep in all disciplines, I don't think it’s been emphasised enough. However, it has made some impact, new members are coming forward and hopefully this will continue.”

Q5) What would you say to encourage people to try bowls?

MI: “As I have mentioned bowling is a great sport for everyone. Any age, ability. Bowls can be played for fun right up to competitive level.” 

GM: “New bowlers need to be encouraged, the stereotype image should be dispelled and a youthful, upbeat picture portrayed. Not that older bowlers should be discouraged, bowls is for everyone and anyone can play it.”

Q6) What advice would you give to para bowlers or directors aspiring to reach the top level of our sport?

MI: “Bowl as much as you can at different clubs and with all levels. 

“Directors need to provide accurate information re lengths, lines, calling the clock to tell the visually impaired bowler where the bowls are lying and make sure the bowler is standing correctly in order to make the shots required.” 

Thanks so much to Melanie and George for sharing the story of the work that went in behind the scenes to form a partnership which was a key part of the incredible achievements made by Team Scotland’s para bowls team at Birmingham this summer. The pair demonstrated fantastic teamwork, performing on the biggest stage for our sport for the first time, we couldn’t be prouder of them both and their achievements in the Scotland jersey.

If you are interested in finding out more about para bowls and understand more about the techniques used to direct and aid visual bowlers then our Inclusive Coaching Award is a great place to start, find out more HERE.

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