SA bowler Baker beckons Cyclone Iris into Gold Coast
A cyclone is hovering over the northern reaches of Queensland‚ but South Africa’s record-breaking lawn-bowler Gerry Baker is jokingly hoping it’ll blow south for the Commonwealth Games to level the playing fields.
SA’s bowlers won five golds at the last showpiece in Glasgow four years ago‚ but Baker says the lightning-quick greens of Gold Coast will suit the Australians and the New Zealanders more.
“The greens (in Glasgow) were like our backyard‚” said Baker‚ set to become the first South African to compete at six Games when he competes on Thursday.
“Here‚ very tough‚ slick. Every day we’ve been having a bit of rain in the mornings‚ which we’re hoping for and praying for to slow down the greens a bit.
“But when those greens get a bit shiny and it gets a bit quick it gets tough for us‚” warned Baker‚ explaining that quick surfaces required different technique.
“It’s a different type of bowl you play with‚ you don’t play with the bowls that we’re used to back home. It’s a little bit of a different technique and shot that you require‚ so it’s tough‚ it’s a bit foreign for us.
“I don’t think there’s five golds coming out of bowls for us … (but) if it carries on raining like this then it’ll get more and more in our favour.”
Baker‚ who has picked up three Games medals to date‚ a gold from Delhi 2010 and two bronze from Manchester 2002 and Kuala Lumpur 1998‚ knows what he’s talking about.
He was at the last Games in Australia – Melbourne 2006‚ where SA failed to land a single gold.
When told of Cyclone Iris on the horizon‚ he smiled and gestured with his arm: “That cyclone must come‚ that cyclone must come.”
Baker‚ a businessman who started out as an accountant‚ delivered a miracle bowl to clinch the pairs gold in India — knocking the opponents’ best-placed bowl‚ second-closest to the jack‚ out of contention to give all six points to SA to tie the second set for a 1-0 victory.
But his greatest achievement‚ he says‚ was winning the singles bronze at the 2012 world championships in Adelaide‚ where he downed the then-world champion in the quarterfinals.
Baker‚ who will skip the four and the trip at the Broadbeach club here‚ began his Games career alongside then 18-year-old swimmer Roland Schoeman in 1998‚ and together they competed at five Commonwealth showpieces until Glasgow 2014.
But he is certain Gold Coast will be his last Games hurrah‚ although he’s keen to stick around for the 2019 world championships at the same Broadbeach venue.
“I’m good mates with Kepler Wessels so I actually said to him‚ ‘How do you know it’s the last?’‚ and he says — this was a couple of years ago — ‘You’ll know when it is’.
“I love the game‚ but I’m tired of the peripherals and the travelling.”