As you may well have
seen the 2017 Special Olympics GB National Games were held across
Sheffield over the week of 7th to 11th August.
One of the sports being
run was Carpet Bowls and, spearheaded by Rebecca Hearn of Hertfordshire,
we were asked to apply to run the event on behalf of the organisers.
We were located at the
Graves Sports & Health Centre, sharing the venue with Tennis,
with competitors coming from 5 different delegations representing
Scotland Highlands, Scotland Lothian, South East, Northern and
Yorkshire & Humberside.
The competition rules were
already set by the organisers before we came onboard which meant
a little bit of adaptation both on our part and for some of the
athletes. Although the rules were mostly familiar to us there
were variations taken from Scottish Carpet Bowls.
The games were played on
our style of carpets, all of which were supplied by Hertfordshire
Carpet Bowls Association, (some of the areas are used to playing
on Short mat carpets), but although we had the usual round centre
blocks, the rules did not call for blocks at the ends of the
carpet through which to bowl, although the competitors still
had to bowl through that same boxed area. This meant that judging
whether or not a wood was legally bowled could be difficult and
for those players who were used to the blocks it sometimes made
it difficult for them to judge where to bowl from.
Other little variations
included a shot being awarded to each side if the end finished
with a wood from each side touching or being equidistant from
the jack. And if the jack was taken off the end would be declared
dead with no score awarded to either side. Can you imagine what
our game would be like if we adopted that rule?
As well as Rebecca we also
had able assistance from Martin Jenness, Thomas Ellis and Craig
Hearn (who turned up to perform MC duties), all from Hertfordshire,
Lavinia and Colin Young from Sunderland, Mike Walker from Bedfordshire
and Paul Daniels and Mick Watkins from Suffolk.
Our people were supplemented
by a number of volunteers from Sheffield and surrounding areas,
who were mostly Crown Green bowlers and none of whom were familiar
with Carpet Bowls, but who nonetheless gave sterling support
even though they were called upon to man the carpets nearly non-stop.
Tuesday morning was set
aside for all the players to practice and familiarise themselves
and volunteer training before everyone headed off to the Opening
Ceremony at Bramhall Lane. Everyone returned on Wednesday for
a full day's bowling in the Singles.
All of the players are
rated in order to provide an even playing field as possible for
all involved and are put into divisions Levels 1-4 according
to their abilities and understanding of the game.
The Level 1 players were
more than capable of giving any one of us a good game while at
Level 3 & 4 the players are allowed to receive assistance
from their coaches to ensure that a legally compliant wood was
delivered each time.
For the Singles the Athletes
were also divided into Male and Female divisions and were placed
in groups ranging from 4 to 7 players.
Play ran from 9.00 until
5.00 and although there was a break for lunch it really was non-stop
for the markers, as one game finished another would often be
starting almost immediately. The two Mikes who were on
refereeing and measuring duties were run ragged.
Thursday was a little more
sedate as we began the Pairs, some all Male, some all Female
and some Mixed, all graded from Levels 1-3. With far fewer games
it was a far less hectic schedule, which was a relief to all
the Officials and Volunteers after the previous day.
With all of the group games
out of the way Friday was the day for Play-Offs in which everyone
would compete to decide the final finishing positions, with 1st
and 2nd in the Groups playing one another to decide the Gold
and Silver medal winners, 3rd and 4th playing off for the Bronze
After that it was time
for the awards ceremony, hosted by Craig, with Emmerdale's Kelvin
Fletcher and that other well-known Northern celebrity Colin Young
handing out the medals and awards. Pleasingly Colin made sure
that he wasn't upstaged by a mere actor, by working it out so
that he got to award some of the Golds himself.
It's fair to say that all
of the games were played in fantastic spirit, even if the emotion
of the situation did briefly get the better of one or two of
the Athletes on the odd occasion, not to mention spells of play
which would put the majority of us to shame.
It was heartening to see
the delight on the faces of the players and to hear from the
Head Coaches, more than once, that this had been the best organised
event they had attended, which is all that we could have hoped
for and which made all the hard work and planning more than worthwhile.
Plus we got a couple of
requests to provide demonstrations of the game, which was an
added bonus for us.
The next games will be
in a mere 4 years time and from the feedback which everyone
received we're sure that we will be back, wherever it's held
and we hope that it will be an opportunity for more Carpet Bowlers
We'd like to thank everyone
who helped out, particularly Hertfordshire CBA for the use of
their equipment and for all the volunteers who were absolutely
tireless and without whom this fantastic event would have not
here for more photos