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Golden oldie: Wood aims for medal at historic 8th Games

Scottish bowls legend Willie Wood is on the verge of making history as the first sportsman ever to play in eight Commonwealth Games and – he dares to hope – as the oldest gold medal winner.

The 72-year-old now has a confirmed place on the team for Delhi 2010 and said he was confident about Scotland’s chances of defending the title it won four years ago in Melbourne.

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He first represented his country on the Commonwealth stage in 1974, when he took the bronze singles medal in Christchurch -- three decades after he started playing in Gifford, East Lothian.

“I feel very privileged to be in this team,” the veteran sportsman said yesterday. “I never thought when I first represented Scotland all those years ago that I would be setting this record of an unbelievable eighth Games. I’m still playing as well as, if not better than, I was then.”

Wood is one of the most successful sportsmen Scotland has produced, with a glorious career spanning four decades and medals at every level of the game.

His Commonwealth debut in New Zealand was followed by a silver medal in Edmonton, when he won pairs silver with his late bowling partner Alex McIntosh, and then in 1982 he topped this achievement with a singles gold in Brisbane.

Political problems surrounding his earnings thwarted his hopes of playing in front of a home crowd when the Games came to Edinburgh in 1986, but he bounced back four years later to take gold in the fours category in Auckland 1990. He kept his place in 1994, 1998 and 2002, but was dropped from the team last time due to a change in the format.

On top of all this are 15 medals -- including four golds -- at the bowls world championships and numerous other accolades at national and local events.

“I count myself lucky with the amount of years I’ve been able to compete at the top level in this sport,” he said. “We have a multitude of talent and Scotland is one of the world’s keenest and most successful bowling nations and I’m proud to be part of it.”

Wood will join 1996 medal winner Paul Foster in India this year, and also on the team will be world championships partner David Peacock, from Danderhall. Along with Wayne Hogg, from Markinch, Peacock and Wood will reform the trio which defended Scotland’s triples title at the world championships in New Zealand two years ago.

Speaking of his hopes for victory, Wood said: “David Peacock is one of the finest skips in the world. We’ve won two world triples titles together and know each other’s game. Wayne Hogg is also one of the finest leads and more than played his part in helping us to retain the title in New Zealand.

“We’ll go to Delhi with confidence. We know it will be a difficult challenge, particularly with the conditions in Delhi where the outdoor surface will unusually be artificial. However, we know what to expect having played the Seven Nations there a few months ago. We’ve gone the course before and know how to dig deep when it matters.”

The Commonwealth Games Federation was unable to confirm if Wood is the oldest competitor this year, as some countries have yet to name teams.

If he brings the prize home to Gifford, however, Wood would smash the record set by Australian bowler Dorothy Roche, who was a relatively spritely 61 when she won at the 1990 Games.

With training well under way for this year’s showcase in Delhi, the team’s efforts are focused on the task immediately ahead.

As the spectacle of Glasgow in 2014 draws ever closer, however, Wood remains cautiously optimistic about his prospects.

“You can never say never,” he told The Herald. “I said in 1988 that it would probably be my last, and since then I’ve won eight gold medals. Better not to say anything this time round.”

  Village boy to national hero


William Wood MBE was born in Haddington, East Lothian, in 1938. He took up bowls at the age of 13 as his father, grandfather and mother all played the sport.

As a young boy he played bowls in his home village of Gifford but it was 1974 before he first represented his country at the Commonwealth Games.

In 2002 he became the first athlete to compete in a seventh Commonwealth Games. His Games career included a singles bronze in 1974, a silver in the pairs in 1978, individual gold in 1982 and a captain’s role in the 1990 winning fours team among other wins. He was awarded the MBE for services to sport in 1992. He has also written an instructional book, A Bias To Bowls, which was published in 1990.

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