Harlow’s international bowler says sport can capture nation’s imagination

Sport / Fri 2nd Jun 2023 at 08:23am

By Jonny Bray, Sportsbeat

ESSEX bowls ace Steven Mitchinson says the sport can capture the nation’s imagination after a golden Commonwealth summer on the Leamington Spa greens.

Mitchinson, who grew up in Harlow before representing Romford Bowls Club, believes the success of England’s bowlers a year ago has inspired the nation’s next generation of talent.

No team collected more medals than England’s seven during the Games as Louis Ridout, Nick Brett and Jamie Chestney grabbed men’s triples gold and Sian Honnor, Jamie-Lea Winch and Natalie Chestney – wife of Jamie – triumphed in the women’s event.

Mitchinson, who was crowned pairs champion at the 2019 Atlantic Bowls Championships, loved watching their success and hopes their exploits at Victoria Park – the spiritual home of bowls – can inspire more young people to follow in their footsteps.

“The Commonwealth Games England team were so successful – and it’s great to build on that success and try and get the story of bowls out into the media a lot more,” said Mitchinson, speaking at a Bowls’ Big Weekend event in Chingford.

“Hopefully in the future we can get a lot more television coverage across different formats.”

Bowls’ Big Weekend took place between 26-29 May, with clubs across the country holding open days to encourage new players to give the sport a go.

The event gave the bowls community the opportunity to come together and celebrate the sport, with clubs across the country opening their doors for free to enable new participants to discover everything that is great about the game.

Mitchinson burst onto the bowls scene in 2010 when he won the National Championship Singles before finishing runner-up to Richard Leonard at the British Isles Bowls Championships a year later.

Bowls has been a staple of the Commonwealth Games since its first staging 1930 but the 2022 edition was among the most memorable.

Mitchinson attended a Bowls’ Big Weekend 2023 event at the Connaught Club in Chingford alongside Craig Bowler, a triple-amputee who won Commonwealth bronze last summer.

And the Essex star added: “There are so many amazing stories in the sport.

“And when I talk to people, friends, and family who don’t necessarily play bowls, they always remark how relaxing it is to watch it in person, and on TV, and how they would like to give it a go.”

Bowls England are in the midst of a five-year plan that they hope will make the sport more attractive and accessible to those interested in playing.

And ahead of the World Championships on Australia’s Gold Coast later this year, Mitchinson believes the sport can take you to some pretty amazing places.

He added: “It will be a completely different challenge for the team at the World Championships.

“Obviously the guys are playing in Australia on the Gold Coast, but they are top level players.

“I don’t see why they can’t come home with at least a few golds so fingers crossed.

“With it being on Australia’s Gold Coast, it definitely shows that bowls can take you to some amazing places.

“I am lucky enough to have played in Australia and it is a great place to play in.

“I am sure the guys will love it out there – it is a great place to play.”  

To find your nearest participating club and sign up for a free session go to bowlsbigweekend.com

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