Rosemary Lenton and Pauline Wilson a gold medal partnership

Rosemary Lenton (RL) and Pauline Wilson (PW) made headlines this Summer, winning the Gold Medal in the Para Women’s Pairs B6-B8 at the Commonwealth Games. This was the second gold medal in a successful series for our Para bowls team who ended the event with three medals from three disciplines. Great teammates on and off the bowling green, the pair have appeared in numerous news articles and made tv appearances since the Games, putting our ‘Sport for All’ on the map.

As part of Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week, we spoke to the ladies to find out more about their successful partnership at Birmingham 2022 and more…

Q1) Congratulations again on your result at Birmingham this summer, could you tell us more about how you prepared for the Games together and how your relationship has grown both on and off the green? 

RL: “Our initial training together was done on Bowls Scotland squad training days, however during the last six months prior to the games we decided that we needed more competitive competition to stretch and test us. We asked around if any of our bowlers had any open competitions, we could compete in. We heard of two in the Borders, (Melrose & Gala) so we entered both. Whilst we did well at Melrose this was predominantly a male entry. At Gala this was an all-female competition with 24 Pairs played in a day and we won all our games and the competition.

"When we started our journey, we did not know each other on a personal basis although we had played against each other previously and we lived in different areas. As a result, we needed to form a bond going forward, we did this by communicating both on and off the field, trying to understand each other’s preferred style of play and personalities. The more we trained and played the greater our friendship developed.”

PW: “As part of the High Performance Para squad, we would both attend the scheduled training days, where we would be paired together to play against other team members. In the build up to the CGs we attended test series against Australia, England and Wales and also in Home International series’ indoor and outdoor. This summer in the months leading up the Games we travelled to Leamington Spa 3 times to train and play against teams including Jersey’s mainstream players.

"It was helpful for us getting to know each other on and off the green identifying each other’s strengths and generally building our friendship, our trust and belief in the others ability which certainly shone through at the CGs.”

Q2) What was the support like from friends, family and fellow club members during and when you returned from the Games?

RL: “It was great to have our families supporting us at the games, both families supported both of us and gave us encouragement especially if we were not playing well. The atmosphere from the crowd and especially family helped to lift our game giving us the confidence we needed at times. I was able to “feed off” the crowd’s encouragement, it felt as if you were playing in a home environment.

"My Club gave me full support from day one, during the games experience I was aware that my Club were behind me as the Press at the games interviewed me several times telling me that the local TV station were doing interviews and filming back at the club and that my interview would be merged with theirs. Unbeknown to me when I returned home to the Club the TV crew were waiting for me at my Club along with the Club members and my family. They have since had a surprise party for me and have given me Life Membership. These are the memories which will stay with me for life.”

PW: “My family have been instrumental in my preparations leading up to the Games, their support and understanding of the commitment that I made to participate in the training involved to give us the best chance of success has been paramount, they gave me the belief and confidence that we were good enough to do well. My family were there during the games to share in the frustrations of our section matches that didn’t go too well and sharing the elation of winning our gold medals.

"My outdoor club entered me in every pairs competition they possibly could so I could get plenty of match play prior to the Games. On the day of our final they set up a screen in the club to watch the gold medal match live. My club organised a celebration party on my return, which all the para team were invited to. They were very proud of our achievement.

"Being with the rest of the para team at the Games was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I felt a strong belonging to our team who were so supportive. We were all there for each other, at each other’s matches cheering our team mates on. It was an incredible feeling. Having this support was great, we all got on well with each other which was a huge positive as we didn’t always get to see our own families during the games due to timings and Covid restrictions.

"We had our bowling family in the village and at the bowls venue. I appreciated that we were never alone (unless you wanted to be!)”

Q3) You’ve both appeared on tv, in newspapers etc this Summer, what impact do you think you’ve had on women’s bowls and para bowls?

RL: “Since I have returned from the Games my own small club of 30 members have had 4 new members all female and a further one due to join at the start of next season. We have also had a young lady in her twenties who is visually impaired and her mother who have taken up the sport and joined the club. I would like to think that after seeing our success more females of all ages will take up the sport and realise that the sport has changed dramatically over the years. It is also a sport which anyone regardless of any impediments can still do and that families can compete against and play alongside each other.”

PW: “I would like to think it has been a positive impact, one that encourages anyone with or without a disability to come and try bowls. We have advocated throughout our interviews that bowls is an inclusive sport and a sport that is available to all ages and abilities.”

Q4) What would you say to encourage people to try bowls?

RL: “Give it a go, the first thing you will do is make friends and have a good laugh and banter. Being in the outdoors will lift your mood, remember this is not an old person’s game anymore it is played by everyone. Go along as a family group, give it a try and it will be a cheap means of exercise for everyone. Sport can be the medicine the heart and soul needs, and friendships will be formed.

A young female participant stated: “it’s a great way to make friends – I only really knew one person in the group before I came here – now we’re all pals, regular attendance has resulted in the establishment of friendship networks and a thriving social group. Recognising the importance of participants’ friendship groups in getting involved and staying involved; providing reassurance that ‘people just like us’ can participate.”

PW: “Bowls is many things to each individual who plays the sport. If you were to ask a dozen people this question, you would get a dozen different answers.

"Bowls is a social activity that brings people together for a wee roll up on the green, a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a blether afterwards.

"Bowls offers friendly competitions against other clubs. For the more serious bowlers who want to play competitively they can compete against other clubs, counties, and countries.

"Many bowls clubs are involved in supporting the community by putting on open days and charity events to raise money.

"Then you have those competitive players who want to win Commonwealth gold medals! Bowls can offer a range of all of these things, and much more.”

Q5) What advice would you give to women or para bowlers aspiring to reach the top level of our sport?

RL: “Never give up, I nearly did on several occasions in the past, if you want to succeed in the sport be prepared to practice as well as playing games. As in most things in life, the more you put in the more you will get out.

"It’s not about how bad you WANT it …… It’s about how HARD you’re willing to WORK for it.”

PW: “Never give up! It has taken me some years to adapt my game to fit my disability. Some coaching manuals might have to go out the window as we are all different and what suits one person might not suit another.

"Find what works for you. Be prepared to work hard and make the commitment to your sport. These achievements don’t happen overnight and when it isn’t happening, be kind to yourself, and keep persevering.”

An incredible success story from two inspiring women who are true ambassadors of our sport. We hope that this story inspires more people to have a go at our sport to experience the many benefits it has to offer. Huge thanks and congratulations once again to Rosemary and Pauline on behalf of all at Bowls Scotland. We look forward to hearing more from Crichton Royal and Willow Bank BC’s next year as surely more folk follow the ladies’ advice to try bowls.

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