NZ lawn bowlers hoping for better in Glasgow
The New Zealand lawn bowls team will be looking to break a lean run of Commonwealth Games results when they compete in Glasgow later this month.
A sole medal at each of the last two games - silver to Val Smith in the women's singles in Delhi in 2010 and a bronze in the women's pairs to Jan Khan and Marina Khan in Melbourne four years previous - have been their meagre returns.
As well as history working against them, the 15-strong NZ team will face unfamiliar conditions at the Kelvingrove venue.
While NZ greens are the quickest in the world at around 18 seconds, the Scottish greens are an agonisingly slow 11 seconds, meaning a huge adjustment in technique for the visitors.
However, they may take solace from the last time they contested the Games in the United Kingdom.
At Manchester in 2002, the Kiwis claimed four medals - including a gold to Jo Edwards in the women's pairs.
Edwards will contest the singles and pairs events in Glasgow, teaming up with best friend Smith in the pairs and she and Smith are likely to be among the best chances for medals.
Edwards and Smith, both out of the United club in Nelson, are two of New Zealand's most decorated bowlers having won medals in a swag of top international events, including world championships.
The majority of the squad went to Scotland and Wales last year to get some invaluable competition on the slower greens and back at their Auckland training base, the team have been utilising the specially-prepared Pakuranga greens designed to replicate the conditions they'll meet in Glasgow.
Pre-Games practice in Wales, with matches scheduled against the hosts and Ireland in Cardiff, should also ensure the team is well prepared for the nine days of competition.
They have a support staff that features Edwards' husband Dave Edwards as head coach, former outstanding performers Peter Belliss and Terry Scott as assistant coaches, John Quinn as mental skills coach and Matt Ingram as their strength and conditioning guru.
The team has a youthful contingent, led by the women's triples team.
Selina Goddard, 19, is joined by the 22-year-old duo of Mandy Boyd and Amy McIlroy as they represent the changing face of the sport, while the average age of the women's team is 31 - 10 years younger than the team in Delhi.
McIlroy's husband Shannon McIlroy will lead the men's team as their singles exponent and will also play in the triples with Australia-based Ali Forsyth and Tony Grantham.
The bowlers will compete for eight sets of medals across the men's and women's singles, pairs, triples and fours formats, beginning with a round-robin series before knockout finals determine the medal winners.
A small NZ Para-Sport team featuring a partially sighted pairs duo and a disabled triples combination will also compete in Glasgow.
The home team will be among New Zealand's toughest competitors in Glasgow, along with England, Wales, Ireland, Jersey and Guernsey.
Perennial contenders Australia, South Africa and Malaysia will also make for a tricky path towards the medals for the Kiwis.
AT A GLANCE
Best Kiwi gold medal hope: Jo Edwards and Val Smith, women's pairs. The long-term friends have vast experience and a track record of success at the highest level - including Commonwealth Games medals for both.
Best outside medal chance: The men's pairs duo of Richard Girvan and Blake Signal. It will be the third Commonwealth Games event for Australia-based Girvan, while Signal forced his way into the team due to strong performances over the past two years.
Schedule: July 24 - August 1.
Venue: Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre, Glasgow NZ's medal history: New Zealand has won 35 lawn bowls medals - 11 gold, 10 silver and 14 bronze - to make it the country's fifth most successful Commonwealth Games sport behind athletics, cycling, swimming and shooting.
Did you know? When not drawing to the kitty on the greens, Mandy Boyd might be found merely drawing or painting - she's a fine arts student at Massey University.
- Waikato Times