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Para-sport: Robert Conway determined to add to his gold collection

H IS dark sunglasses contrast starkly with a shock of white hair, but his assortment of jewellery is most eye-catching.

Only one colour of medal will do for Robert Conway   Photograph: Nick Ponty
Only one colour of medal will do for Robert Conway Photograph: Nick Ponty

Robert Conway has a thing for gold. When we meet an impressive-looking watch glitters on one wrist, with four bracelets on the other. A chunky chain hangs around his neck and there are three rings on each hand.

The Scottish bowler has a pretty good idea of what he would like to be the next addition to his collection: a Commonwealth Games medal. Gold, naturally.

Glasgow-born Conway, 56, has been selected alongside Irene Edgar to represent Team Scotland in the B2/B3 mixed pairs. Ron McArthur and David Thomas were named as B2/B3 mixed pairs directors, sighted bowlers who work as guides. There is no singles event for visually impaired bowlers in this summer's Games.

Conway, who is ranked world No 1 in the B2 class, took gold in the singles at the 2013 International Blind Bowls Association World Championships and bronze with Edgar in the mixed pairs.

"I've been visually impaired all of my life so I've never known what it is to be sighted," he says. "I'm albino and was born like this. I took up the sport when I was 32 after my kids had grown up and gone to school."

Although registered blind, Conway said it was only in recent years that he found out the true extent of how little sight he had. "I always thought I could see a decent bit but when I went for my last eye test at Gartnavel [Hospital in Glasgow] I asked the ophthalmologist and they said I had about 15% of normal vision," he says.

Scotland's para-sport lawn bowlers compete in the Games for the first time since 2002 in Manchester where they won gold. "I never thought it would come back while I was still playing the game," says Conway. "Someone had told me it would be 2022 before the blind got back involved in the Commonwealth Games.

"I said that by that time I would be finished and retired. When I heard it was coming back in 2014 I was determined to get out and train and practice. It's paid off and I'm over the moon - especially with it being in Kelvingrove because I live in Scotstoun.

"I've practiced there about 50 times in the last two years. Between now and July I will be living there. I might just take a wee tent along."

By his side as Conway takes to the greens at Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre will be his director McArthur. "I use a small pocket telescope and can slightly make out bowls but I'm not able to identify every single bowl so Ron's expertise at my side is very, very important," he says.

Conway spent much of his early bowls career coaching others, including his ex-wife Helen Conway, a former Scottish champion, and his current partner Ada Meikle who has won a clutch of British titles as well as singles silver at the 2007 IBD World Bowls Championships in Sydney.

"I've been to eight world champ-ionships but only played in four. I coached in four of them for my partner and ex-wife. This sounds like News of the World stuff, doesn't it?" he jokes.

Having devoted many years to assisting others, Conway's own desire to succeed is clear. "No doubt about it, I'm very determined," he says. "I put in the hours. I was supposed to be playing on Monday with my three club members and they never turned up so I played an hour-and-half myself. I never lost, it was great."

The recent unveiling of the design for Glasgow 2014 medals, he says, has only served to strengthen that resolve. "I will definitely be looking for a podium finish and be disappointed if it's not gold," he says. "I'll be honest, I'm looking for a gold."

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