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By James Reid at Victoria Park
Olympic champion Denise Lewis could be the unlikely secret weapon for two lawn bowlers.
Lewis was a surprise spectator at Victoria Park in Leamington Spa on Friday to watch England’s para men’s pair Kieran Rollings and Craig Bowler as they beat New Zealand 19-11.
It had been a difficult start for the pair as they were defeated 23-12 by Scotland in their opening match but were buoyed by an Instagram message from the Team England president willing them on.
Rollings was just 10 months old when Lewis clinched Olympic gold in the heptathlon at Sydney 2000, and but a figment of the imagination as she won Commonwealth titles in 1994 and 1998.
But the legendary Brummie’s status was still enough to leave both Rollings and Bowler starstruck as they chatted and posed for pictures with Lewis after their second game on Friday.
“I first met Denise Lewis at the Team England president’s dinner at the Birmingham Regis hotel and we got to know each other,” explained Rollings of the unlikely partnership.
“She messaged after the first game, she messaged me and said, ‘hard luck, keep your chins up for the next game’ and she turned up in the stands.
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“I hope she’s a lucky charm for us.”
Lewis has certainly proven exactly that so far, with the pair winning both of their matches on Saturday to secure qualification for the semi-final stages.
The day started with a hard-fought 13-12 victory over Australia before a more comfortable victory over Wales in the afternoon, despite the eventual 12-11 score line.
And Rollings, who was just 18 when he competed at the 2018 Gold Coast Games, spoke of the need to keep their heads on the biggest stage bowls has to offer.
“You’ve got to use all your experience from previous competitions and matches,” added Rollings.
“The first game, it’s always daunting seeing the crowd after a four-year break from the Games.
“It’s one of our largest events so to go out there first match it’s always a bit nerve-wracking
“If you get a bit nervous, you’ve just got to step back and think it’s a league game.”
However, for partner Craig Bowler, who is making his Commonwealth Games debut, the nerves will never go away from playing at such a prestigious event , even with an Olympian fighting his corner.
“You never get used to it, it’s still quite daunting for me,” admitted Bowler.
“I’m still a bit nervous but it’s looking good now and I’ve got a good skip Kieran who can help me out when needs be – it’s going in a good direction.”