Friends are everything – bowls provides plenty of that potion

Don’t take yourself so seriously. If you’re trying out new sports, you might not be good at the skills required for the game right away. You might even learn a few different sports before you settle on one you like. Have patience with yourself and others, it will go a long way toward building a sense of accomplishment and also forming new friendships. The Friendship Games began in 1985 and features over 40 Pilipino American Student organisations from college campuses representing California, Nevada and Arizona that participate in a day of friendly but competitive picnic games, performances and to celebrate “SPUF” – Spirit, Pride, Unity, and Friendship. Schools compete for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies. The school that shows the winner is awarded a 2.4m trophy.
Friends are everything – bowls
provides plenty of that potion

Loyal friendship is part of the mythology of sport – but some of the greatest winning twosomes have been powered by mutual dislike, wrote Sbu Mjikeliso.
Take up bowls and I aver you will make more than one friend for the rest of your life.
The laid-back nature of the sport, the availability of time to play, the easy rules, yet exciting moments whether in social or serious competition give the code an edge over many, if not all other odes when it comes to forging associations.
After all, friendship, Samuel Butler once said, is like money: it’s easier made than kept. By that measure, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene have a billion-dollar friendship.
The Sri Lankan pair, who hung up their bats at the World Cup, came to epitomise sporting bro-mance. On 36 occasions, they made 100-run stands together. They took Sri Lanka to a T20 World Cup and lost two World Cup finals. They almost died together, too, when they were hit by shrapnel during a terror raid on their team bus in Pakistan in 2009.
Jayawardene and Sangakkara are best remembered for their record 624-run test partnership in Colombo in 2006 against South Africa on a featherbed wicket. You have to get on if you’re going to spend 11 hours hitting balls together in the sun, having a chat every 10 minutes.
But bro-mance isn’t the only route to glory. Some triumphant teammates can and do hate each other.
Granted, there are plenty of cases where discord is destructive. One of the most comical examples is Newcastle United teammates Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer losing their tempers around the time their side went 3-0 down to Aston Villa – all because one refused to pass the other the ball. Bowyer got a ripped shirt, Dyer a sore left cheek. Both got red cards.
But what happens when it works? What happens when two guys’ loathing for each other creates a chemistry that sends sparks flying on game day?
Perhaps former Pakistan captains Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram could give us the answer. The speed twins are undoubtedly Pakistan’s best-ever bowlers and formed the most feared opening-bowling partnership, after the West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
Younis had a working-class hero persona about him. The right-handed quick had to fight hard for his wickets, while Akram was suave. His bowling action looked unorthodox but not flawed. He bowled left-handed with speed and with a devilishly upright seam. On camera, he wore rimless spectacles that made him look like he could give a philosophy lecture right after picking up a hat-trick.
They were both masterful exponents of reverse swing and broke many batsmen’s toes from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s. But they disliked each other to the end of their careers. Each was jealous of the other’s brilliance – competing for the match ball and control of the dressing room. It got so bad that, at the 2003 Cricket World Cup, they were speaking to each other only through skipper Inzamam ul-Haq.

There’s more. Long before McLaren had Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominating Formula One and renouncing their friendship, the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost exchanged plenty of words.
It was hate at first sight. The initial offensive gesture, it appeared, was when Senna moved to McLaren from Lotus in 1988. By the end of 1989, with Senna needing a win at Suzuka to take the title, and Prost leading the drivers’ standings, Prost collided with Senna just as the Brazilian was overtaking on a bend.
A year later, Senna, who was in the championship lead this time, returned the favour, on the same Japanese track. Senna held pole position and Prost second. McLaren benefited from their war by dominating the constructors’ championship. Anyway, Senna blocked Prost from overtaking him on the first turn and they both crashed out of the race.

Basketball great Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won six NBA rings together with the Chicago Bulls, but couldn’t stand each other. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mido didn’t play for long together at Ajax Amsterdam, which is just as well, because Ibra was moved to hurl a pair of scissors at the Egyptian.
That’s almost as bad as former figure skater Tonya Harding, who conspired to break the kneecap of her Team USA colleague Nancy Kerrigan. In the end, the hired attacker bruised Kerrigan’s thigh, but it’s the thought that counts.
Legendary Brazil strikers Romario and Bebeto, now both politicians, were as compatible on the pitch as they were incompatible off it.
“Bebeto off the field is more the type that stays at home; I’m a street cat,” said Romario,. He also called the wholesome Bebeto a “chorao”, or crybaby, because of the way he complained to match officials. At one point it got so bad they refused to sit next to each other on a flight.

But the best description of anti-camaraderie came from footballer Andy Cole, who was spectacularly honest about his Manchester United striking partner, Teddy Sheringham . “I would rather sit down and have a cuppa with Neil Ruddock, who broke my leg in two places in 1996, than with Teddy Sheringham, whom I’ve pretty much detested for the past 15 years,” Cole said.
“We played together for years. We scored a lot of goals. I never spoke a single word to him.”
But Cole and Sheringham scored 54 goals together at United and won an historic treble.
Like anyone, sportsmen don’t want to hate each other. They dream of friendships that will last forever, that their kids will be friends and their kids’ kids – a fantasy not unlike courtship.
In the end though, not everybody is as lucky as Jayawardene and Sangakkara. And for many sporting comrades, there’s nothing quite like a bit of bad blood to raise your pulse.
Original material ex Facebook

Grassroots bowls and soccer give girls share of playing fields

Grassroots bowls and soccer
give girls share of playing fields

Grassroot Soccer is expanding – just like lawn bowls. The organisation, which uses football to reach at-risk youth to try to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, has a programme aimed at empowering young girls, ending harmful gender stereotypes and teaching them good health habits – all while getting them moving on the field. Put simply, these girls have got balls; soccer balls and bowls, of course.

In the heart of Khayelitsha is a modest brick building. Drive up and you’re immediately surrounded by tiny children who want to know everything about you: what’s your name? What are you doing? What’s that in your bag? And no, you cannot have your hand, arm or leg back – you’re going inside with company attached to every available limb.

These miniscule beings – all eyes and questions – are just some of the dozens of children you’ll meet at the Football for Hope centre in Khayelitsha. Opened in 2010, a year when all eyes were on football in South Africa, the centre was the culmination of a yearlong collaboration involving the Football for Hope movement, Grassroot Soccer, the Khayelitsha Development Forum, and numerous supporters and funders. It was the first of 20 similar centres that would be built in economically disadvantaged communities across Africa as part of Football for Hope’s 20 Centres for 2010, the official campaign of the 2010 World Cup. Most recently, it has become home to SKILLZ Banyana, Grassroot Soccer’s initiative.

The South African Bowls Association has set into motion similar projects. Schools, universities, disadvantaged communities have been offered time, expertise and equipment to take up bowls. Teachers have been empowered and hundreds of children – including the disabled and contact-sport shy – have responded.

Daily Maverick previously reported on the work of Grassroot Soccer, which uses soccer as a tool in HIV/Aids prevention. GRS relies on hundreds of young role model educators throughout Africa to connect with young people at risk of developing HIV/Aids, also incorporating testing, awareness raising and social support.

They launched SKILLZ Banyana, their new programme aimed specifically at girls. Although the programme is primarily aimed at HIV/Aids prevention, that’s not all it does. Communication Co-ordinator Jenn Warren explains that over the years, GRS has moved away from aggressive language focusing on “fighting” the disease, towards more inclusive language that also addresses underlying issues: raising awareness, building self-esteem, and focusing on healthy living regardless of status. Of relevance to SKILLZ Banyana, too, is that GRS is increasing its focus on breaking down harmful gender stereotypes and empowering girls, which it believes will ultimately reduce risky behaviour.

So what is SKILLZ Banyana? “In South Africa, the consequences of the norms governing gender power relations are severe, particularly for girls,” explains Warren. “These power imbalances and harmful gender norms result in widespread acceptance of violence against women, low self-esteem, increased high school dropout rates, transactional and age-disparate sex, early exposure to sex, and teenage pregnancy.

These factors also drive the HIV epidemic in South Africa.” The adult prevalence rate is 16.9%, and there is a disproportionate concentration of the disease among women and girls. Globally, there are nearly twice as many young women as young men with the disease. In South Africa’s antenatal clinics, infection rates double between attendees aged 15 – 18 and those aged 20 – 24. For girls engaging in unprotected sex, the teenage years are a crucial phase in prevention.

According to Warren, there are a number of large-scale multi-sectoral initiatives focusing on gender issues and HIV/Aids, but few giving young women close contact with positive role models and focusing on increasing self-esteem, physical health and school performance, while also addressing the imbalance of social norms that present men as decision makers and dominant partners.

For young girls who feel their options are limited, this is sorely needed. In Khayelitsha alone, a reported 15.1% of girls aged 16 – 18 have dropped out of school, with the reported reasons being poverty, family commitments, poor performance, disability or illness, and pregnancy.

Sport for Development (SFD) interventions have a sound track record statistically. “[They] have been shown to change behaviour and improve health outcomes,” says Warren, citing a 2005 study by Koss and Alexandrova. GRS’s own track record is also strong. Evaluations of GRS have been done by a number of universities locally and internationally, and all found that GRS’s interventions reduce risky sexual behaviour, decrease stigma, and improve participants’ level of knowledge and awareness around HIV/Aids.

Bowls South Africa, under its president Kallie Haupt has instigated marketing schemes and committees dedicated to taking the sport to grassroots – and it is working.

As with soccer schemes, there has also been a documented improvement in participants’ decision-making and perceived level of support.

Daily Maverick reported a Zimbabwean study found that students who could list three people they could talk to about HIV increased from 33% to 72%; participants who knew where to go for help for HIV-related problems increased from 47% to 76%. The percentage of students believing condoms were effective increased from 49% to 71%. Some 77% of the coaches who graduate from the organisation’s two-year employment programme go into educational, employment or training careers.

And as the author of the article explains: “But one never gets the feeling, talking to GRS staff, that they believe sport is a magic bullet.”

Director James Donald previously told Daily Maverick: “Many believe that sport is some kind of magic dust – that if you play, somehow everything is better. There is some evidence that sport has positive health outcomes, especially for girls. But if you want to challenge big, systemic problems like HIV or gender-based violence, you need to be far more deliberate.

“For us, sport is a Trojan horse. It means we can build relationships with children in a safe space that they are proud of participating in. It also provides a plethora of ready images, metaphors and analogies that children can relate to. Also, with soccer in particular, it is a powerful way to challenge norms and stereotypes around gender. But most important to all this work is the coach,” he said.

Bowls follows such principles and is empowering everyone it can – the good thing being all seem to truly enjoy bowls, its camaraderie and life-long participation.
Original story by MARELISE VAN DER MERWE; Daily Maverick

Too many cooks; not enough athletes at Rio Olympic

The 1948 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium, London, cost just £70 000 (then about R200 000!!) – the 2012 opening ceremony, back in London, alone cost £27-million (about R320-million. This year’s Rio Games will cost twice that.  Since then, however, there have been incidents galore and blame can be levelled at officials and athletes…
Too many ‘cooks’; not
enough athletes at Rio Olympic?
I read somewhere last week of the names of athletes selected for the South African team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next month. The names seemed satisfactory, but then I saw that a veritable clutch – more than 100 officials and “noch’schlepers’ were also going to be given a ticket and expenses courtesy of the already beleaguered SA tax payer.

Now I know there has to be coaches, medial staff and managers – but really are so many required? Smacks of “jobs for the boys (and girls) to me.

I agree it’s so easy to blame officials “doing their job;” but sometimes upholding the letter of the perceived law goes too far – how good are all those officials anyway? If the head of SABC is anything to go by. Qualifications are not important.
The 1908 Games, noted for partisanship and acrimony (Americans refused to dip their flag as they marched past King Edward VII, starting a US tradition. American discus thrower Martin Sheridan said: “This flag dips to no earthly king.”
An Italian shop worker Dorando Pietri, just 1.59m tall, was the elite Italian runner of his time, from 5 000m to the marathon; In the 1906 Olympics in Athens, he retired with stomach cramps when leading the marathon by 5min.
He trained seriously for London 1908, recording an extraordinary 2hr 38min for a 40km race – lightening speed for those days. On a blazing hot day (idiotically, officials set the start for 2.30pm), Pietri and 54 opponents began their 42,2km race. A South African Charles Hefferon led, but as the leader accepted a drink of champagne and a pat on the back by a well-wisher in the crowd, he was overtaken by Pietri at the 39km mark.
But the Italian succumbed to dehydration and fatigue and on entering the stadium in front of 75 000 spectators; still clear, he had to be helped up four times by officials as he became disorientated. Totally out on his feet, he finished in 2hr 54min 46sec – 10min required to cover the final 350m; an American Johnny Hayes finished second. The US team immediately lodged a complaint against the winner; it was upheld and Pietri disqualified.
Wow, the officials help him, then disqualify him … can you imaging that going unopposed today? I think not.
At high altitude Mexico City in 1968, African American Tommie Smith streaked to gold in the 200m in an amazing world record 19.83sec. He and a teammate John Carlos, who took bronze, gave a black-gloved clenched fist Black Power salute on the medal dais; silver medallist Peter Norman a white Australian, sported a human rights badge in support.
The controversial, dictatorial IOC president Avery Brundidge found political statements unwelcome and Smith and Carlos were suspended from the US team by Brundidge; they moved from the Olympic Village. Later Smith and Carlos and their families received death threats from white extremists worldwide.
Brundidge, when president of the US Olympic Committee in 1936, had however, made no objections to nazi salutes during the Berlin Olympics.
At Los Angeles in 1984 media touted the women’s 3000m a duel between wunderkind barefoot South African (running for Great Britain) Zola Budd and American world champion Mary Decker. They were wrong; Rumanian Maricica Puică, fastest that year, would win
Budd took control at 1 700m. Half a stride behind Budd, on the inside, Decker’s right thigh contacted Budd’s left foot, unbalancing Budd. Decker hung close and again clipped Budd; a third collision followed; Decker stumbled and fell onto the infield – she was truly down and out…
Budd eventually finished 7th to resounding boos
In her autobiography, Budd avers deliberately slowing to take herself out of contention as she feared collecting a medal in front of a hostile, partisan crowd. Budd tried to apologise to Decker, but was rebuffed.
Budd was jeered by the crowd, but an IAAF jury correctly exonerated the tiny South African. The devious Decker recanted many years later: “Some (people) think she tripped me deliberately … that wasn’t the case … I fell because I was (very) inexperienced running in a pack.”
No post apologies from the media for Budd…. It was a case of a much used US headline oxymoron – “rapist for trial.”
So, using HG Wells’ Time Machine we quickly shift to London 2012 – should all be sorted by now?
Don’t make jokes.
The modern officials delight in drug testing; laugh out loud (lol). After the on-going Tour de Farce (France) saga, the IOC tells of 1301 drugs tests conducted since July 16 – 715 urine; 286 on blood, with the terribly boring IOC President Jacques Rogge, reminiscent of SA’s late Piet Koornhof’s “apartheid is dead” quote in the 1980s, saying the crackdown was a success; more than 100 athletes being trapped.
Albanian (Wag the Dog anyone?) weightlifter Hysen Pulaku (anabolic steroid stanozolol) was first booted; Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was expelled for tweeting a message that the Swiss team said “gravely insulted and violated” the dignity of South Korea after his team’s 2-1 defeat a day earlier and a Colombian woman soccer player suspended for punching an American  player in an eye; there will, no doubt be more.
But surely the day-today officials could lighten up?

From Sharapova to anyone else with an Eastern European-sounding name the bans are coming thick and fast – or should I say thick and farce?
Let people ingest what they want; freeze the records, ban everyone, dissolve the Games – take your choice.
American gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte, wanted to wear a custom-made red, white and blue tooth grill on the podium (many athletes wear implants in every orifice and tooth), only to be informed by a (nameless) moronic IOC official  that wearing the grill would mean no gold medal.
Show me that in the rules?
Surely the Games are for the athletes and the spectators – not the bloody officials? Yes, they do a good job; but it’s an all expenses paid ego boost for so many; the genuine men and women can ignore that.
After all, if a “Queen Elizabeth II” can parachute into the stadium and that prize clown Rowan Atkinson can get up to his tricks with the London Philharmonic and the IOC permitting creepy mascots, the grill must be a most serious offence? … lol again
Talking of officials, the US head swimming coach Gregg Troy gaffed, putting the non-sprinting Lochte as anchor in the volatile 4 x 100m men’s relay. He knows he was wrong, we know he was wrong, the swimmers knew it was wrong … Troy admits it “was an error,” then, later, became anal retentive when asked if in hindsight if he would have changed the quartet’s order, by arrogantly saying: “… No, I think we probably would’ve swum the same …” adding amazingly: “He (Lochte) didn’t have much experience there; I just wish he could have swum a little bit smarter race.”
Are you kidding?
To go back for a moment again to the drugs question, what about the raised eyebrows and buzz about China’s 16-year old Ye Shiwen who swam faster than Lochte for 50m in her final 100m freestyle leg on her way to a world record in the 400m individual medley. Shiwen went 28.93 in her final 50 and 58.68 in her final 100 of her 400 IM; Lochte went 29.10 and 58.35.
That led to the usual “what is she taking” drivel; did anyone ask the same about charismatic American world record beater Dana Vollmer?
No, of course not; officials: Shut it!
To end, one good, one bad piece of officiating: North Korean weightlifter Om Yun Chol (must be in their nuclear programme?)  1.3m and 56kg lifted a record 168kg in the clean and jerk, joining an exclusive trio to have lifted three times their body weight. Officials found no fault in the “B” Division lifter who beat all “A” entry opponents. Well done.
But an ugly side of the Games so far?
Niger Oarsman Hamadou Djibo Issaka, 36, (remember useless swimmer Eric “The Eel” Moussambani?) awarded a wild card, made a mockery in an embarrassingly slow performance in the men’s single sculls, finishing more than 300m behind his nearest competitor. Legend Sir Steven Redgrave commented Issaka should not have been allowed in at the expense of better athletes; Issaka finished last in his five-man heat, more than 304m behind his nearest competitor.

Another lol!
In a first, women compete in all 26 Olympic codes – yes, including boxing. So they are happy, but not, it seems are all men.
Some cry discrimination for not being allowed to join the ghastly Giaconda-smile leers of the over-made-up belles (my words) of the agonizingly repetitive synchronised swimming or the painted marionettes of the predictable, impossible to mark rhythmic gymnastics.
Now, there’s a male lobby crying “not fair,” (maybe in falsetto?).
Let ‘em in; but make them appear just like their female counterparts!

Finally, an unbelievable 2012 gaffe:
Olympic fencing experienced an amazing controversy when a semi-final clash in women’s individual epee was won on a final touch with 1sec remaining and the loser launching an appeal which led to acrimony and a long delay. South Korea’s Shin A Lam led Germany’s Britta Heidermann by a point. Heidermann had 1sec to score to advance to the gold medal; Shin was all but home free.
But no, the timing mechanism stuck, giving Heidermann extra time – she “won” the bout. Without protocol (why I do not know) officials let the result stand.
Shin and her coaches were enraged and appealed. Another ridiculous law required Shin to sit on the piste (unbelievable!) for 15 minutes … she wept uncontrollably.
After 30min. the result, inexplicably, stood
Instead she had to fence for bronze and, no wonder, she lost that.
Wake up officials; when an American dived into the pool (false start means automatic qualification in swimming) in a final after the start buzzer went off in error, she received, correctly no penalty and went on to win silver.
Make one think, doesn’t it?

No medals for the Zika-carrying mosquitoes I hope – but still that might be the final sting in several tails.

1976 – year to remember for bowls prowess as well

1976 was indeed a political watershed for South Africa as the youth of the country awakened. Forty years on those momentous days are remembered not only for their tragic consequences, but for the legacy they provided. In bowls the year is also remembered as the only time a nation has won all four disciplines at the then World Bowls Championship – South Africa can be justly proud of that … ALAN PETER SIMMONDS, South Africa’s leading bowls writer and Media Officer for Bowls South Africa, was at Zoo Lake in 1976 when South Africa’s men bowlers conquered the world …

1976 – year to remember
for bowls prowess as well
Records are made to be broken – they usually are. But a South African lawn bowls achievement of 40 years ago can never be forgotten. Five Springbok s (now the Proteas) comprised the men’s side, playing on home greens at the now defunct Zoo Lake Bowling Club in Johannesburg, completed an unprecedented (then) World Bowls Championship Cup) whitewash against a glittering field of 16.
It should also be remembered, named lawn bowler of the 20th century, David Bryant of England was in that event.
Today, only two of those heroes remain – the ebullient, charismatic Kevin Campbell, who still shows his enduring talent at picturesque Glen Country Club, Cape Town and the quiet, super-talented Bill Moseley (Belgravia, JBA) who “still plays a bit.”
Those that are gone – the late Doug Watson, who ended his days in the Kingfisher district at Margate BC, was singles champion; he and Moseley won the pairs. Campbell, Nando Gatti, Kelvin Lightfoot (the latter two are also dead) the triples and Campbell, Gatti, Lightfoot and Moseley the fours. The feat will stand as unique; formats have changed.
Forty years ago, just to remind you, B J Vorster was Prime Minister; Dr Piet Koornhof, the Minister of Sport. The late George Atkinson was on the world committee; Esau Shapiro headed the SA Bowling Association.
Zoo Lake alas is no more, but I will never forget the excitement, the colourful attire and the sparkling bowls – it was also a turning point for the modern game.
When the fab five went up to receive their just rewards before an adoring nation, the scene was instantly unforgettable. It sparked interest in the sport and within four years 80 000 played at more than 600 clubs nationwide. Well all k now that number has diminished considerably, but the game retains its allure and magnificent competitive camaraderie.
About a year ago Margate Bowls Club staged the R30 000 Warwick Wealth/ Watson Family/Robbie Flooks 10th Doug Watson Bowls Tournament to commemorate that feat and to again honour perhaps the greatest player in our history. Format was two men and two women and pairs, trips and fours will decides the prizewinners. A cocktail party took place for players the evening before.
Watson’s record of five SA Masters gold medals, four in a row is unbeaten (Gauteng star Gerry Baker, also has five wins and six silvers); Gatti was a runner-up; Lightfoot won once. The East Rand super star was the same age as Moseley; alas he battled ill health and died a young man.
Campbell and Moseley, survivors after 39 years, who have lost none of their charm or skills, fittingly have accepted invitations to play against much local talent in the Margate event.
Campbell, 24, in 1976 at PHSOB, Pretoria and named the “Afro Kid” now plays out of Glen CC, WP. He has amassed a multitude of trophies (including four SA Masters gold and two silvers) in every discipline and at every level. He coaches, plays senior Masters (bronze medallist), still employs his unique, dropped shoulder, simple style that is easy on the eye, but impossible to emulate and remains eager to improve – goodness knows where, so talented is the legend.
Moseley a sprightly 70 something, has quit serious competitive bowls, but remains a tiger on club greens. I remember watching him play for SA with Watson at Worthing, Sussex, in 1992. His urbane behavior, deadly touch and nagging accuracy trademarks would help win him many major international events. He took the Masters in 1983 then lost in the final to Durban’s John Milligan in ‘84.
Margate was rightly congratulated for paying homage to the 1976 feat, to Watson and for including Campbell and Moseley in their celebrations – spectators were able to savour undying talent on lush Kingfisher greens … 40 years on, we still pay tribute to them all.

One last golden medal and Gerry will have them all

The South African Protea bowls side has been announced to play in World Bowls at Christchurch, New Zealand. One man, the doyen of men’s bowls in this country, Gerry Baker, needs a world bowls gold to complete a sweep of every major trophy available. I repeat some of what I wrote a long time ago in another blog; it is dedicated to “Lefty”…
One last golden medal
And Gerry will have them all

They complain the world’s inventions and all its facilities are designed for right-handed people, yet an inspection of the long list of left-handers from all walks of life through the ages suggests they might have done something about it had they bothered.

That they are “different” is without doubt … it has been written: “Lefties have excelled at both ends of the scale – the very good and the very bad. They seem to make exceptional leaders, inventors, artists, musicians and murderers!”

The language of being left-handed sets them apart to begin with.

Links (German) and skaios (Greek) mean awkward; mancino (Italian) translates as crooked, gauche (French) and linkshandig (Dutch) are for clumsy; sinistre (Latin) speaks for itself.

But a cursory glance at some familiar names may make you wake up and take notice:

Lara Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Felipe Calderon (Mexico), Barach Obama (USA and seven before him), Hugo Chavez Fries (Venezuela) are all presidents of their countries; Benjamin Netanjahu (Israel) Brian Cowen (Ireland), David Cameron (UK) are prime ministers.

In sport Rafa Nadal and Martina Navratilova spring to mind for tennis; Phil Michelson for golf; other notables include Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Prince Charles, Jack the Ripper, HG Wells, Lewis Carroll and even Bart Simpson “get it wrong” when they pick up a pen or a knife and fork. Even my ex-wife is left-handed; she is a very gifted person.

And also in South Africa, we have own favourite bowling lefty … the formidable Gerry Baker of Johannesburg, now nearing the end of a career spanning more than 20 years.

He has amassed so many club, district, national and international trophies he could open a shop. Now he is deservedly in the Protea side to play at World Bowls which is in Christchurch New Zealand. The team of five men and five women will play from the end of November into December this year.

Gerry, a successful businessman and a larger-than-life ambassador for the sport seldom “gets it wrong” on the green, but being left-handed has pros and cons – an opponent cannot follow your line; but then neither can you theirs.

He’s been around a while; his record is awesome. When he walks on to a green he actually looks a bit like a Napoleon. Compact, slightly brooding at times, he epitomises the loner singles star. His handshake is strong; but he is reticent. He is polite, but seldom congratulates an opponent on a good shot … it means so agonisingly much to lose, let alone miss.
Baker sometimes becomes so cloistered in his own aura of invincibility he appears to forget there’s an opponent on the green.

In fact, he is a much better winner than a loser – most top athletes are – magnanimity and humility come easy to those used to victory; despair in defeat sits hard on the throat.

A rough glance at his singles record shows: CGBA singles 8 times; CGBA Masters at least twice; all the Transvaal singles twice; SA Masters (Gold) 5 times (matching Doug Watson); runner-up (silver) 6 times, bronze 4 times; African States singles gold medal twice; Atlantic Championship Singles Gold medal Gold and bronze Medal Commonwealth singles 1998 and Pairs 2010 and glory again at Glasgow in 2014..

Add that plethora of district, national and international titles and podium places in all the other disciplines (more than 120), you can almost feel the pressure Baker exudes on opponents.

But let him tell his side of the singles story as a lefty:

“Singles is by far the toughest and fairest of them all.

I am often approached by top players complaining how selectors justify leaving a particular player out based on an impressive record.

My answer is simple, actually another question: ‘Have you won a major singles event?’
In 100% of the cases the answer is no; ‘but I did get to the quarters or semis etc.’

To win a singles event is somehow different; more difficult than winning a team event.
Skips all too often get too much credit for success; the rest of the guys or girls are inevitably blamed for failure.

At singles, there is no place to hide.

When began I hated singles, but soon realised to be a real player I had to forget hate of the format and force myself to embrace it. I found I was required to lift concentration levels to succeed, learning the first bowl of a head counts up to 30% of the end, the middle two bowls 20% apiece and the last 30% … master your first and last bowl and win far more than you’ll lose.

Singles play is often thought of a game for loners. I agree with that to some extent; I am comfortable on my own. Over the years I disciplined myself to accept tough defeats as a preparation for big wins.

Self-belief is paramount. One can lose confidence quicker in singles than in any other format. You have to believe that on any given day you are the best in the world – I certainly believe if I am at my best no one can match me. I do, however, also ascribe to the pure fact if you play poor bowls, even a novice has a shot at you.”

But toughie Bake is no big bad wolf.

When he does bring out the grin, it has great warmth … tough on and off the green in sport and business; Baker is your ultimate player for all reasons.

Good luck Down Under Gerry – you have earned respect and praise wherever you have played.