A visually-impaired bowls player and his team have reached the semi-finals of in the biggest sporting event in his life – the World Championships in Australia.
Stephen Hartley, of Tavistock, is due to team up with Alison Yearling, of Plymouth, (who is also visually impaired) in the mixed pairs of the para bowls team tomorrow (Friday). There, the pair (each with a fully able guide) will take on South Africa between 5am and 8.30am UK time. The other semi-final medal hopefuls are home team Australia versus Scotland at the same time.
Stephen was selected earlier this year for the para team bowls mixed pairs by Bowls England. It is the first time the governing body has chosen a para team for the world championships and sets him and others on the path for a potential Olympic place in Australia in Brisbane 2032.
So far, they are in medal contention having won their first game against Hong Kong, lost the second against South Africa, putting them in third place. Yesterday they beat New Zealand (in fourth) and drew against the home nation Australia.
Stephen said: "I can't comprehend yet that we have a shot at a medal and it's been hard-fought. It feels like we've been unlucky not to have scored more, but it wouldn't have changed anything.
"We have the best draw for the semi. And although we did lose to our opponents South Africa in the group stages, they were beatable.
"Scotland and Australia are in the other semi and they are the big boys of the competition, but at least one of them will go home, so that would be good if we reach the final."
"It was an uphill battle against Australia getting to the semis because we are playing on their home rinks and they have a massive loud crowd of supporters. We were close to beating South Africa. The draw against the Aussies has kept our medal hopes alive.
"There’s a good all round team spirit which is helping fighting off the nerves, so confidence at a high level for us all."
After this major event, his next ambition is to play in the Commonwealth Games in 2026 for Disability Bowls England, having only been playing the sport for only about four years, another potential step to the Olympics.