The world of lawn bowls witnessed an extraordinary achievement today as New Zealand's dynamic duo, Teri Blackbourn, and Julie O'Connell, clinched the gold medal at the inaugural Women's Para Pairs event during the World Bowls Championships on the Gold Coast, Australia.
It the first time that Para bowlers have been part of the World Bowls Championships, with the kiwi pair recording the first gold medal on the first day of finals.
There is the opportunity for a second tomorrow, after Christchurch bowler Tayla Bruce accounted for Australian Ellen Ryan, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games singles and pairs gold medallist, in the singles semifinal. She takes on Kelly McKerihen from Canada in tomorrow’s final.
The remarkable victory by Blackbourn and O’Connell was the culmination of a journey that only began when they first crossed paths at the airport in March on their way to represent New Zealand in the Multi Nations tournament.
Their success was hard-earned, losing only one of their seven matches to top their section and secure a spot in the semifinals where beat Thailand 15-12.
They took on the formidable 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallists, Rosemary Lenton and Pauline Wilson from Scotland in the final. The game was evenly poised for the first half of the match before the Blackjack pair scored seven over three consecutive ends to push to a commanding 12-5 lead. Scotland fought valiantly in the remaining ends, but New Zealand's resilience and skill earned them a 14-8 victory, securing their place in history as the inaugural winners of this event.
Julie O'Connell expressed her elation at the win: "It meant absolutely everything. It was really tough out there, but we played as a team throughout the tournament, and I'm really thrilled."
Teri Blackbourn added: "It was super slick out there. It was really nice to extend a lead, but we never felt complacent as you never should. It’s been wicked getting to know Julie over the last six months, and winning this with her is the icing on the cake, I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”
O’Connell said that Blackbourn’s experience in indoor bowls proved a real factor on the super-slick greens in the final.
New Zealand has another opportunity for gold on the second day of finals when unbeaten singles player, Tayla Bruce competes in the final of the women’s singles.
The Christchurch bowler Tayla Bruce will compete for the gold medal in the women’s singles on Sunday after a brilliant semifinal victory at the World Bowls Championships in the Gold Coast today.
Bruce remained unbeaten this week, with a stunning 21-10 victory over Australian Ellen Ryan, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games singles and pairs gold medallist.
The pair were locked at 10-10 in the race to 21 points, but Bruce reeled off shots on five straight ends to move to 20-10, and finally celebrated the win to move to the gold medal match.
In the gold medal match tomorrow, she will take on Kelly McKerihen from Canada, who prevailed 21-20 over England’s Katherine Rednall in the other semifinal.
“I was happy with how I played. We took a little bit to get settled in. The green was very different from what we have played so far and the wind was up,” said Bruce.
“I was happy with my play and really proud to come up against Ellen and get over the line because she is an incredible opponent.
“I kept telling myself to keep patient once I got to 20-12 lead. I needed to be patient because I expected she would come back with her calibre.”