Following the huge excitement of Glasgow 2014, which had the whole country cheering Team Scotland on to deliver a record medal haul of 53 medals, Commonwealth Games Scotland (CGS) is asking for the nation’s support once more.
Commonwealth day (9 March) was fittingly chosen by CGS to announce the first two lawn bowls athletes, Darren Weir (Prestwick) and Carla Banks (Inverurie) selected to represent Scotland at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games.
The Commonwealth Youth Games concept was developed by Scotland as a development opportunity to introduce athletes under the age of 18 to an international multi-sport Games. This experience helps to bridge the gap between young athletes competing in their own sport specific competitions and the daunting experience of a first Commonwealth Games.
The fifth Commonwealth Youth Games will be held in Samoa, 5-11 September 2015 and there is already compelling evidence of the successful role the Youth Games play in an athlete’s development.
To date 66 Scottish athletes have progressed from the youth to the senior Commonwealth Games with 16 going on to win a total of 26 medals for Scotland. These include athlete Lynsey Sharp; swimmers Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick; boxers Josh Taylor and Charlie Flynn; gymnasts Daniel Keatings and Adam Cox; shooter Jennifer McIntosh and badminton players Kirsty Gilmour and Imogen Bankier.
Lawn Bowls is the first sport to complete its selection process for Samoa 2015, following an exciting and closely fought selection series organised by Bowls Scotland and the Scottish Indoor Bowling Association. Over the last six weeks an unprecedented 124 young lawn bowlers across Scotland have battled it out for just two places.
Two weekends of preliminary matches led to 20 qualifiers (12 boys and 8 girls) playing in the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games Selection Finals in Glasgow on 1 March, where Darren Weir and Carla Banks emerged as winners and bagged their places on Youth Team Scotland.
16 year old Carla Banks who plays at Garioch Indoor Bowling Club and on the outdoor greens at Inverurie Bowling Club, will head to Samoa with a wealth of international experience having represented Scotland at both Under 17 and Under 25 level for the past three seasons. She held her nerve to close out an incredibly close final in the selection event, emerging as the winner 21-20, to book her place on Youth Team Scotland.
"Today means everything to me”, said Carla. “It's the best thing that has happened so far in my life. I was really nervous going into each game but I gained more confidence with each one. They were all very close games and all could have gone either way, so I'm happy I managed to stick in and win. Going to Samoa will be an amazing opportunity, a tick off my bucket list."
Prestwick’s Darren Weir also came through a close final to seal his place, and for the 15 year old, who plays at Prestwick Ambassador Indoor Bowling Club and Kincaidston & Belmont Bowling Club outdoors, the Youth Games comes right at the start of his international career. He heads to Ireland next month as part of the Scottish Young Bowlers Association Under 17 team for his first taste of international competition, experience which will stand him in good stead come September.
"This is by far my best achievement," he said of his selection to Youth Team Scotland. "It was a very hard competition because the qualifying stage wasn't easy, never mind getting to the final and finishing 21-19. But it was a great opportunity to get to Samoa, I feel very proud.”
In Samoa, Darren and Carla will each compete in Singles and then team up for a Mixed Pairs event. 2015 is the second time that Lawn Bowls has been included on the Commonwealth Youth Games programme, the first being in Bendigo, Australia in 2004 when Scotland won silver in both the Team competition and Mixed Pairs.
Elinor Middlemiss, Youth Team Scotland General Team Manager said: “The success of Team Scotland at Glasgow 2014 has sparked a huge wave of interest and enthusiasm across Scottish sport with young athletes all keen to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Flynn, Hannah Miley and Lynsey Sharp to name but a few.
“Lawn Bowls was a huge success in Glasgow with all five men winning gold and I have no doubt that Darren and Carla will be working hard over the next six months to do likewise. The battle they had to achieve selection will stand them in great stead for Samoa 2015.”
Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said: “I’d like to offer my huge congratulations to Darren and Carla for making it into the Scotland team for the Commonwealth Youth Games. When better to celebrate this than the start of Legacy Week? There’s no greater honour than representing your country, and I’m sure they’ll both do Scotland proud. Lawn bowls was a massive success at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, and with young bowlers like this coming through the ranks, the game clearly has a strong future.”
Delighted that the selection series has sparked such huge interest from youngsters in the sport, Alan McMillan, Bowls Scotland CEO, said: “We are satisfied we have left no stone unturned in our rigorous selection process to find the two best bowlers to represent Youth Team Scotland at this summer’s Samoa Commonwealth Youth Games.
“To have 124 of our most talented young players entering the selection process was an outstanding response. We congratulate Carla and Darren for showing great determination and stamina to win the selection finals and we are delighted to see them taking their places on Youth Team Scotland.
“I have no doubt that the multi-sport environment of Samoa will provide an unforgettable experience for them both and I am certain it will inspire them to strive towards competing for Team Scotland at Commonwealth Games in the future.”
Further team announcements will be made in May, with the final sports and full team being announced on 30 June 2015.