Singles title is still within sight for Smith

Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012
Val Smith
Photosport
LOOKING AHEAD: Val Smith is about to resume training for Hong Kong as a buildup to her main target – a gold medal in Glasgow next year.

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Val Smith had no qualms about revisiting the scene of her devastation at the bowls world championships in Adelaide yesterday as the Black Jacks veteran turned despair into a positive by moving a step closer to defending her singles crown.

Familiarity bred anything but contempt for the 47-year-old as she exploited the nuances of the "television" rink at the Lockleys club to great effect in her sudden-death encounter with Kelly McKerihen before advancing to tomorrow's final against Australia's Karen Murphy.

Unlike the Canadian, Smith had recent experience on the green, albeit harrowing, as the previous evening she and Jo Edwards lost their pairs title to Australia's Kelsey Cottrell and Rebecca Quail. While Edwards reflected on a disappointing tournament, Smith put Thursday's knowledge to good use to build an early 8-2 lead before recording a comfortable 21-12 triumph.

"I had a bit of advantage because I'd already played on that TV rink," Smith admitted.

"Whether it's right or wrong, it was a good thing for me. There's only one TV rink and if you get to play on it more than once you've got to have an advantage."

She won't have the element of surprise tomorrow because Murphy got acquainted with the green while eliminating England's reigning Commonwealth Games singles champion Natalie Melmore 21-15 in yesterday's other semifinal.

Smith was pipped 21-18 by McKerihen in the second round of pool play but there was no prospect of another Canadian boilover once the New Zealander's advantage ballooned to 19-7 after 16 ends.

However, McKerihen strung out the contest five more ends before Smith reached the magical 21 points with her final draw on the 21st end.

McKerihen twice killed off the 17th with last-ditch drives when Smith had the head under control; she ultimately claimed a shot before a three on the next raised faint hopes of a comeback.

Smith went through a phase where she garnered just one shot from five ends but her experience eventually told once McKerihen left a yawning gap to exploit - and not before time.

"Kelly made some great conversions there and that put the pressure back on me," a relieved Smith said. "It was tough out there, the score didn't indicate how close it was. I can't lie, the nerves started to set in. I dropped an ugly three [on the 18th] and then I had to settle myself again and tell myself ‘Make sure you finish this game off'."

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Smith was delighted to make her second final of the championships, an opportunity to make amends for New Zealand failing to hold the women's pairs for the first time since 2004.

"The pairs were very disappointing so it's great to have another chance [at gold].

"The last world champs I went in there wanting to give it my best [in the singles] but I didn't go in with the expectation of winning it. It was a huge bonus, but coming here I felt the expectations are a little bit higher."

Form suggests there is little between the trans-Tasman rivals - in their opening round meeting in pool play Smith prevailed by the slenderest of margins, 21-20.

She can relax today but there is no rest for Murphy, who skips an Australian triple which aims to prevent Lisa White, Jan Khan and Mandy Boyd claiming New Zealand's first gold medal.

- Wellington

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