South Africa’s Gerry Baker retires from international bowls

One of South Africa’s finest sportsmen for the past two decades is retiring from the international code he triumphantly graced throughout the world, writes Alan Simmonds, Media Officer, Bowls South Africa

Protea ace lawn bowler, club, district, national and international champion Gerry Baker of Johannesburg an entrepreneur and top businessman, has paid his dues.

“I will continue to compete domestically, but the demands of family and business must now be given the same attention I have allowed my sport for so long,” said the tough-as-teak left-hander.

Playing mainly the lonely, gruelling singles and pairs disciplines, Baker, a youthful 58, can boast Commonwealth Games’ gold, silver and bronze; multiple triumphs at World Bowls, a triple African States singles gold medal haul and a singles title at the Atlantic Championship, to go with myriad club and domestic district (nine) and national (11) titles.

He also holds the joint record (with the late great Doug Watson) of winning five South African Masters Singles titles, plus an amazing six silver and three bronze medals during an unparalleled career.

“It’s the end of an era of excellence. Gerryhas been at the sharp end of South African bowls for 20 years,” says Bowls SA president Rob Forbes.

“He can proudly attest to not only his host of gold medals, but also umpteen awards and distinctions for composure, integrity, demeanour and sportsmanship. He has done his nation proud.

“As a role model to many, I know he will be sought as a speaker, teacher and motivator.”

Plaudits have also arrived from Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland stars, often bewitched and bewildered by Baker’s brilliance.

Baker, who plays out of the Bryanston Sports Club, saved the greatest shot of his career when spearheading South Africa to victory over England in the men’s pairs at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.

Baker and Shaun Addinall (now an ordained Roman Catholic priest) won the first nine-ends set 8-7; England led 13-4 in the second with a tie-break imminent.

On the eighth end the SA duo picked three shots, but would require all six shots available on the final end to tie the match and thus win – virtually unobtainable.

Addinall and his skip contrived a 100-1 chance for Baker to execute a final shot of incredible difficulty.

Sparking a near riot from the thousands watching, Baker pulled the once-in-a-lifetime delivery to force a tie and win the gold medal.

SA head bowls coach Jessica Henderson said: “It was with sadness in my heart I read your email. I do understand and respect your decision. Your retirement will, however, leave a void in the squad and in future teams. Your support and knowledge will be dearly missed…”

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