Natalie Melmore is the youngest woman to win the national lawn bowls singles title and the reigning Commonwealth Games singles champion. Aged just 22, Natalie is credited with increasing the number of young people playing the sport. Kristoph Thompson discovers what drives the belle of the bowls...
How did you get into bowls and what attracted you to the sport?
My dad plays so that’s how I got interested. I took part in a Sport for All junior session on a Saturday and have played ever since. As a child I played every sport but bowls stuck for some reason. It’s really addictive and I got sucked in. You can never play a perfect game and always improve so that spurs me on to keep playing and practicing.
What are your hopes for this year and next?
The big focus is the World Championships in Adelaide. I hoping to qualify from the groups and maybe win a medal. Having previously won a medal at a major championship, the pressure’s on!
Do you think bowls will be an Olympic Sport?
I’d love to see it but it’s not even being considered. Bowls is not a professional sport, it’s seen more as a hobby which is a shame because of half a million people in the UK play regularly. The public interest is definitely there and lots of people watch it on TV.
Is there another athlete that you look up to? Why?
Bowls players don’t get paid and have to fund themselves, which means making a lot of sacrifices. I’m inspired by those who push through adversity and are successful. Lance Armstrong is a great example of someone who has dealt with hardship and still stayed at the top of his game.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Being young in what is typically an older person’s sport. I’ve had to work full time alongside playing too, while many other female players don’t. It can sometime be difficult to find the time and money to train, travel and compete. The hardest thing was being recognised by the selectors as they didn’t always pick the squad on merit. I worked hard, letting my results do the talking and now I’m an established player.
Do you ever get nervous before a competition? If so, how do you deal with it?
Not as much as I used to but I still get nervous before a big competition. The Commonwealth Games were particularly stressful; you put pressure on yourself but then you’re also expected to do well which adds to that pressure. It’s a team game so you don’t want to let your teammates down. I try to focus on the positives, believe in myself and be as confident as I can.
Is there a motivational quote that resonates with you or that sticks in your mind?
Someone once said to me when I kept getting overlooked for the county and regional squad ‘they can stop picking you but they can never stop you winning’. It’s always stuck in my head and helped me to keep entering competitions and doing the best I could.
What advice would you give someone keen to take up bowls?
Have a go! 99% of clubs are keen for new people to play, they’re a friendly bunch so just ask!
What couldn’t you live without and why?
My diary. I’ve had one since I was sixteen and wouldn’t know what I’m doing from one day to the next without it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy keeping fit as I feel it helps with my game, particularly when we play in hot and humid countries. I really enjoy Zumba, which I do with my friends; it doesn’t seem like exercise, we just laugh for an hour.
Natalie was talking at the opening of the Plymouth Life Centre (www.everyoneactive.com).
Tags: bowls, bowls champion, lawn bowls, natalie melmore