English champ talks up bowls as sport for all
SOMETIMES winning gold means more than being a winner - as Ellen Falkner can testify.
The 34-year-old, who has been one of England's top women players for the past 15 years, was an interested spectator at this year's Summerland Pairs at Ballina Cherry Street Bowls Club.
English player Falkner, who was holidaying on the North Coast with husband Chris, took women's pairs gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games with good friend Amy Monkhouse.
It was an emotional victory for Falkner, who had suffered personal tragedy just a few weeks before the Delhi tournament.
"I can still picture now what it was like standing on the rostrum and looking at the English flag," she said.
"My nan, who had helped introduce me to the game, passed away a couple of months beforehand
"I could quite easily have cried but I thought if I did, I might not be able to stop.
"To win it with one of your close friends made it extra-special as well. It was just a great, great feeling."
Falkner, who hails from Cambridge in southern England, has enjoyed a glittering career in the sport.
As well as her 2010 gold medal, she also won women's fours gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
She has won gold at the 2004 world ladies' fours and has won some of Britain's top women's events.
Despite her stellar achievements, Falkner is not resting on her laurels and is hoping to compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
"I like how no matter good you are, you can never say you have mastered bowls," she said. "That is the desire that keeps you going - looking for that perfect game.
"I've been fortunate to win major titles, but there's more that I want to achieve.
"I think that's the commitment you need in the higher echelons of bowls.
"I have been fortunate to play alongside fabulous people and make some good friendships. It's a wonderful sport from that point of view."
These days Falkner combines bowls with working at the Youth Sport Trust, a charity supporting young people through recreational activities.
Faulkner also said she hoped clubs would do more to encourage the inclusive nature of the sport.
"I definitely think clubs need to work on different opportunities to keep people engaged, whether they are bowls players or new members," she said.
"It's about really positioning bowls as a sport for all - because that is what it genuinely is.
"It's one of those sports where there are no barriers around the game, and that should be celebrated.
"I'm really impressed with the facilities here (at Ballina). It's a beautiful little club and this looks a great tournament."
IMPROVE YOUR BOWLING
Ellen Falkner's top tips:
- Play with and against as many good players as you can.
- Make time to practise - practise both your strengths and weaknesses.
- Watch other matches to improve your technical awareness of the sport and learn new things.
- Play as many competitions as you can to get a feel for tournament play.
- Relax and enjoy the game.