Former cricket star Chris Turnbull claims Commonwealth bowls bronze

Former cricket star Chris Turnbull claims Commonwealth bowls bronze

Former cricketer Chris Turnbull finally found a sporting thrill better than skittling batsman as he claimed Commonwealth Games lawn bowls bronze.

The 74-year old Ryedale bowler became one of England's oldest medallists in Games history, joining forces with Alison Yearling as England beat Australia to claim a podium place in the visually-impaired mixed pairs event at Leamington Spa.

The retired teacher has a sight condition called bilateral myopic macular degeneration and at 30 years of age, was told him he had the eyes of an 80-year-old.

But as a keen sportsman, he didn’t let his sight loss stop him.

"It's fantastic. It feels unreal – I have to keep touching the medal to remember it's there," he said.

"We've worked hard: it's been a two-year process through the trials to get selected, and you don't want to let anybody down.

"Taking wickets and getting hat-tricks, it's the same buzz! I got a hat-trick in cricket: three balls, all clean bowled but it's not better than a bronze medal.

"I love my sport and bowls means I've never stopped competing. I was always determined to achieve success despite my disability.

"I started out playing football and achieved representative honours at county level despite having to wear glasses with very thick lenses.

“As I got older my footballing days ended but I carried on playing cricket as an opening bowler and number 11 batsman - I played at Yorkshire Council standard.

"One day I was bowled a bouncer and I couldn’t see it, then I knew I was in trouble. I started playing bowls in 1996 but never in a million years thought I'd be stood here, aged 74, with a Commonwealth Games medal around my neck. It's just an amazing story."

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

Turnbull and Yearling are assisted by sighted directors Mark and Sue Wherry, a grandson and grandmother combination from Truro.

"They are essential," said Yearling. "They give us the information we can't see. They are calm and lovely people, and we couldn't have done it without them."

And Turnbull has another assistant - with guide dog James arguably one of the most popular members of Team England in Birmingham.

"The sighted bowlers in the team have loved him," added Turnbull.

"He's been a calming influence and a good addition – everybody loves him. He's going to get some carrots tonight - he loves them."

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