Limited Vision Won’t Stop Bowler

Published Friday, August 22, 2008

For many athletes the BC Disability Games is about more than medals. For athletes new to adaptive sports the games offer the chance to play in a larger pool of competitors, to learn from other athletes, and to experience a higher level of competition than what their local sports club can offer.

Paddy Langmaid participated in his first set of games in 2007 at Powell River.
Paddy first heard about the BC Disability Games through the Kelowna Lawn Bowling Club which he had been a member of since 2006.

As 2007 was only Paddy’s second lawn bowling season there was, in his own words, “little chance of my winning handsomely”. Paddy’s sole focus was not on his placement in the competition but rather in the experience the competition offered him. Paddy said that he “gained valuable experience that I shall be able to use in future tournaments.”

Lawn Bowling is played on a green that is 121 feet long. A small white target ball, called the jack, is rolled and competitors take turns tossing their balls, called bowls, towards the jack. Scoring is conducted at the conclusion of an end, with a player scoring one point for each bowl that is closer to the jack than that of their opponent’s bowls.

There are no changes to the rules of Lawn Bowling for athletes with visual impairments but each athlete uses a sighted coach to assist them in preparing to make their shots. At the start of a game the first player tosses the jack to the opposite side of the green and a coach then places the jack on a string and tells the players how far the jack is from where they are standing. The coach also assists the players by judging the distance of their bowl after they have tossed it.

Paddy explains “that without being able to see the jack, or in some cases even the string, you need to judge how much weight to put behind your bowl when you deliver it, and at what angle to deliver it. This takes skill and a whole lot of practice.”

Lawn Bowling has three classifications of Visual Impairment: B1 athletes have no sight, B2 athletes have some sight, and B3 athletes have some sight and are able to do most things with visual aids. Paddy is a B2 competitor.

Paddy has age related macular degeneration which, he explains, “has robbed me of my central vision and the top half of my field of vision is a blank. What I can see, I see as though I were looking through a window that had been smeared with Vaseline.” Paddy has also had glaucoma for forty years and that is now attacking his peripheral vision.

Paddy’s positive attitude helps him navigate through life as his vision worsens.  Paddy says “that with limited sight, the handicap may be as great as a person lets it be.”

Paddy brought that positive attitude to the Games in Powell River and while he did not medal he made the most of his experience.  Paddy enthuses about participating in the BC Disability Games and says that “the whole experience, that of meeting lots of new people, competing against people I had never met, those things really thrilled me.” He also says that “the Games were so well organized; the food was fabulous; travel was all pre-arranged; we were never late for our lawn bowling games; the bowling green was spectacular; and everyone was so friendly and helpful.”

Paddy is looking forward to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows BC Disability Games and says that this time around he “expects to win some games.”