A Credible outing at the Gold Coast World Champion of Champions Event
The Island was represented at the recent lawn bowls World Champion of Champions event hosted by the Helensvale Club in the Gold Coast, Australia by Clive McGreal having earned his passage to this prestigious competition through winning the national singles title in both 2015 and 2016. This annual event brings together the crème de la crème of the sport with the national champions of some 50 nations eligible to enter. This year Clive faced a real tough draw for his section matches which placed him alongside the host Aussie and much fancied contenders from Wales and Hong Kong who have performed consistently well in international competition over the last few seasons. Unfortunately for the Manx player the event suffered from a few late withdrawals after the draw had been made with players from Botswana, Zambia and the Cook Islands pulling out for a variety of reasons which left Clive with a couple less matches against the smaller nations.. Still with 9 matches to play during the sectional part of the tournament in which the top 3 in each group would progress to the knock out stage where the play offs and the medals would be determined.
Whilst it is still spring time in Australia the average temperature for the Gold Coast was over 30 degrees added to which the high humidity factor and hot winds made playing conditions pretty uncomfortable at times especially for the European contingent unfamiliar with such climate. With the greens in fantastic condition and running at lightning speed the President of World Bowls was quoted as saying that it compared with bowling on linoleum. Clive started his programme with a loss against Israel before notching up some good wins against USA and Zimbabwe. The matches against Wales and Australia went with the form book and despite a sterling performance against Wales and a super first set display against the host in which Clive led until the last end of the first set, both matches ended in defeat for the Manx competitor. With the match schedule pretty intense and the battle for the playoffs becoming a close affair the next two matches against Hong Kong and Brunei were crucial. It was in these particular games that Clive produced his best bowls of the tournament in his convincing victory over the Brunei champion, Rahman Omar who has competed at 4 Commonwealth Games and a host of World Bowls events. This was followed up by a tense tie break thriller and fine win over Ken Chan from Hong Kong, who has won a host of junior and senior titles in his home country. With the results from the other matches in both sections posing some surprise outcomes the battle for the play off positions went down to the wire on the final day of the preliminary matches. If the Manxman were able to win both matches on the final day his place in the play offs would be assured anything less would leave him at the mercy of other results. The first of the matches against Thailand was a real close encounter with the young champion from Thailand playing some incredible shots to take the first set. Clive battled back in the second set with an equally emphatic display which took the match into another tie break which on this occasion didn’t go the way Clive planned as the Thai champion clinched the victory. This left the final section match against the formidable Ozkan Akar from Turkey, well known throughout World bowls circles for his flamboyant style and tremendous personality. However, a consistent display of quality bowls by Clive was too much for the Turk who could muster little in response as Clive posted a final win in the sectional play. With a chance to qualify still a possibility It was at this stage that the shock result of the tournament took everyone by surprise as the Aussie undefeated up to this stage lost to Brunei which assured Brunei a position in the knock out phase.
With the top 6 nations now determined this left 4 countries tied in 7th spot all with similar results each having won 5 and lost 4 matches. The other 3 nations with the same record being England, South Africa and Hong Kong who were equally devastated at missing out on the latter stage of the event. As it transpired the finals were completed with the Gold medal won by Scot Thulborn of Australia, the silver by Jon Tomlinson of Wales and the bronze by Rahman Omar from Brunei .it was perhaps unfortunate that all 3 had come from the same section as Clive which made qualification that much more difficult however, Clive can boast a victory over the bronze medalist and a very credible performance amongst the world elite for such a small nation as the Isle of Man. Just for good measure the ladies event was also won by Natasha Scott of Australia who defeated Brunei in the final.