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Few third year bowlers would have achieved the lofty heights that Stoke’s Steve Delaney has already enjoyed in his short career – let alone those playing with impaired vision.

Nominated for the Para Athlete of the Year (B1-B4) in this year’s Summerset Awards, news that Steve had won the category came as something of a shock to the Nelson junior.

Kicking the season off with a successful title defence in the B3/B4 Singles, Steve edged a thriller opposite Kerrin Wheeler in Auckland, before teaming up with Gordon Oldfield and claiming silver in the pairs – succumbing to a commanding display by former world champion James Dunn, of Paeroa.

But for someone that just three years ago picked up a bowl only by chance, the future possibilities in the sport has fuelled a strong link to achieving more in the months and years ahead.

In fact, Steve, who was last year selected for the Trans Tasman fixture that fell victim to COVID, makes no secret of his aspirations to represent New Zealand on the world stage – and with some early success under his belt, he’s not afraid to dream big.

“I was named in the Blind Jacks side to play in the Trans-Tasman, but unfortunately that never went ahead. So it’s now about looking at the next opportunity and I’m really hoping to get into that space and contest a world title.”

Though dreams aside for now, Steve is looking a little closer to home as he seeks more silverware within the Nelson Centre – something he is keen to build on following a win with his clubmates in the junior fours at Stoke last season.

“I’d really like to have a crack at a junior centre title, so having a good go at the Stoke junior titles and hopefully going on to the champion of champion event– that’s the target I’m setting myself.” For those unaware of the intricacies of blind bowls, the B4 category in which Steve competes in is for bowlers with no greater than 20 degrees of vision in each eye. To put that into context, the average sighted bowler has a normal vision of 160 degrees in each eye, and Steve himself is down to around 8 degrees in both.

Though, his lack of vision has certainly not held him back.

“(At club level and everyday bowls), I definitely hold my own, and when I come across players that don’t know me or my situation and they see my cane or Sally the dog – there is always the question, are you training that dog? – but no, I’m actually legally blind and it’s usually much to their astonishment.

“But I live as normal a life as I can . . . and I really put the time into it.”

A former builder, Steve gives kudos to his father Colin, who up until recently has been his bowls director.

Now stepping aside for retirement, Colin will be replaced by Steve’s clubmate and friend Dave Parata, as the duo look to build on the Delaney momentum that has ensued in previous years.

“This award is as much as my fathers as it is mine, it’s been a pretty tough year to be honest – right up to going into that final at the nationals, there was a tremendous level of self-doubt, so it’s been a great year to get over the line.

“I’ll really miss my old man and all the experience he brings with the role, but with Dave on board, we gel on another level and it’s time for a new chapter and some new blood . . . so bring it on, let’s see what’s possible.”

Noticeably taken aback by the accolade, Steve is now looking towards next season as an opportunity to continue putting runs on the board. He’s tipping it with the optimistic potential to be one of his best yet – albeit only his fourth year.

“I’ll be putting all of the time in to achieving what I want to do, and let’s see where it takes me.

“It’s a huge honour to be recognised at this level . . . (to be fair) I was rapt just to be nominated, but to win the award . . . it’s pretty special.

“It’s been an awesome journey so far, and I intend to take it as far as I can . . . watch this space.”

*Steve Delaney is the 2020-21 Summerset Para Athlete of the Year (B1-B4)