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Brilliant Bester

Any competitive bowler’s dream is to stand on the podium at a World Bowls Championships with their country’s national anthem playing, a glittering gold medal around the neck, and the announcement that you are the World Bowls singles champion. John Rednall spoke to Canada’s Ryan Bester on the back of his triumph in Australia.

JR: Well Ryan, you’ve done it! After being world outdoor singles bronze medallist in 2008, and silver medallist in both the 2012 and 2016 championships, you are at last the World Bowls men’s singles champion. Congratulations. How does it feel to have won the most prestigious title in the sport on the Gold Coast, Australia?
RB: It feels absolutely fantastic. It has always been the one event I have wanted to win and after coming so close in the past to get over the line it is the crowning moment in my bowls career; especially after COVID-19 and the delays to wait seven years after the last World Championships to have another go.

JR: For the benefit of our readers, tell us how you started playing lawn bowls and your development as a player.
RB: I started playing bowls when I was 10-years-old. My uncle and grandfather on my mom’s side played and my two older brothers, Chris and Mike, wanted to have a go so I would tag along. When I was ten, I started properly and my father started that same year. We used to travel two hours each way during the weekends to play in Canada and I absolutely fell in love with the game. I made my international debut in Manchester in 2002 and was lucky enough to win the world pairs in 2004. After that, Gary Lawson from New Zealand offered to help me move to the Southern Hemisphere and after completing college went to Australia for the Asia Pacific Championships in 2005. I stayed on and played Premier League in Sydney and competed in the Commonwealth Games in 2006. I went back to Canada for six months then made the permanent move to Australia for bowls.

JR: Ryan, I met you in Ayr, Scotland, when we were both competing in the 2004 World Championships. Everyone was talking about this exciting new Canadian bowler called ‘Bester’. You won the world pairs with Keith Roney there when you were just 19-years-old. What are your memories of that?
RB: I have great memories of Ayr in 2004. I remember before heading over I had won 38 straight games in Canada and was in pretty good form. Canada had picked the men’s singles and fours teams and were contemplating the pairs and triples. I said I would like the pairs as Canada was in Scotland’s section and I wanted to play Alex Marshall. I can still remember playing the final against legends Noel Graham and Jim Baker; the crowd was great and got behind Keith and myself. I was really new to the scene and probably didn’t understand how great it was to win a world gold medal. And after two silvers and three bronze medals in between winning the singles, I can fully appreciate how hard and great it is to win a second world
gold medal.

JR: How did you feel before the World Championships 2023? Were you well prepared and confident? How much of an advantage was it to live and bowl in Australia?
RB: I was quietly confident going into the Championships. I knew I had a very hard draw in both the pairs and singles. I wasn’t playing my best but was training to reach my peak at the event. My parents were over from Canada which was a big help and a huge difference from previous World Bowls and my family, Rachel, Monica and Harry were a big help and inspiration for me. It is a huge advantage living and playing in Australia. The greens were quick and a bit windy so knowing which shots to play was an advantage for sure.
JR: You won nine of your ten group games which was great. Which was the toughest match in the group?
RB: The toughest match was against Sam Tolchard from England. It was a great game that almost went to the time limit. It was close to 30 ends and a high quality game. I also had Japan and South Africa in the group which were extremely tough games.

JR: You bowled some really important, high quality shots in the singles matches, but which one was the best?
RB: I think the last end of the final. In 2012, I was 19-19 against Leif Selby and I played a good first bowl of the end then three not so good bowls. I had that in my head when I was on 20. I played a good one and followed it up with two really good shots to hold the title.

JR: You are known for having the full repertoire of shots, including a really accurate drive. How have you perfected your all-round repertoire
of shots?
RB: Living and playing in Australia has helped me perfect weight control on the quick greens. Playing that yard and two yards of weight has been a big advantage. I hit my first drive in the final and knew the timing was really good and was fortunate to keep it going throughout the game and draw some crucial shots as well.

JR: Can you tell us about your job in Australia? Why is lawn bowls so popular in Australia?
RB: I am the bowls co-ordinator at Broadbeach Bowls Club. I have held the job for almost 12 years. We have 300 members and a big business as a bowls club. We have a restaurant, bar and 49 poker machines. My job is to run the day-to-day social bowls at the club, club championships and the many tournaments we run on behalf of ourselves and work with the state and Bowls Australia to help run their big events such as the Australian Open all year. I also work behind the bar and help the club in any way possible. Bowls is very popular in Australia as you can play all year round in most of the state and the clubs have poker machine revenue to help bowlers play on the best surfaces and in many different competitions.

JR: How different is it bowling in Australia to Canada?
RB: Comparing Canada to Australia is totally different with bowls. The greens are the main difference – ten seconds in Canada to 13-18 seconds in Australia. The competitions in Canada only play for four months whereas in Australia we play 12 months a year.

JR: What advice would you give to up-and-coming players who have the dream of becoming a world champion?
RB: My advice is practise makes perfect and talk to more experienced players. When I was younger, I used to go straight from school to the greens to practise and played almost every day in the summer in Canada. When I moved to Australia, I tried to learn off all the great players. I was lucky enough to play at the same club as Peter Belliss, Rowan Brassey, Neil Burkett, Russell Meyer and Gary Lawson and would ask questions all the time to try to learn the game better.
JR: The standard of lawn bowls was quite amazing in the World Championships and there are many talented players across the globe. Who do you respect the most?
RB: I rate Aron Sherriff from Australia as number one, especially over the past few years in Australia and he’s just won two World Bowls gold medals. His consistency and drive are unreal. Also, Sam Tolchard from England; he is always at the business end of tournaments and always plays well when I see him play. For the ladies’, Katherine Rednall and Katelyn Inch are two standouts for me.

JR: Now you have won the World Outdoor Singles, you must feel you can do it again and again. What are your dreams for the future?
RB: Yes, with World Bowls happening every two years now I will probably have a few more chances to represent Canada on the biggest stage and hope to win another gold medal. My dreams for the future are to spend some more time with my beautiful young family and just go out and enjoy the sport I love.

JR: Thanks Ryan for speaking to us and all the best to you and your family for the future.

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