Forget Cool Runnings and move aside the Reggae Boyz, Jamaica has a new name in an unlikely sport — and this time they aren’t just making up the numbers.
Andrew Newell is the Caribbean island’s first-ever lawn bowler at the Commonwealth Games and he produced a shock victory over English world number three Robert Paxton.
In fact, shock doesn’t come close to doing justice to the result.
This genteel sport had never seen anything quite like it, as the 44-year old danced down the parched greens of Broadbeach while the DJ frantically searched his reggae playlist and the surf rolled in on the adjacent beach. It was a result even more stunning than the vista.
Along with team-mate Merv Edwards, the ‘Reggae Rollers’ have caused quite a stir Down Under and were even stopped for a photograph in the athletes’ village by Yohan Blake.
But Newell, who lives and works as a youth worker in south-west London, was determined not to be another sporting novelty act.
However, after losing all his pairs matches with Edwards by heavy scorelines, things were looking bleak.
And they didn’t get better when he suffered a 21-0 and 21-2 defeat in his opening two singles matches, not the ideal preparation for taking on gold medal favourite Paxton.
However, Newell danced and jigged his way to the most improbable of victories, leaving Paxton ashen-faced in the midday sun.
“I like it when they crank the music up, it was good to hear Bob Marley at the end there – I need to find the DJ and give him some more tunes,” said Newell.
“I feel I’ve done myself justice now. I’ve been beating myself up about my other results but this proves I deserve to be at the Commonwealth Games, proudly flying the flag for Jamaica.
“It feels amazing, it makes everything worthwhile. Perhaps Robert was not at his best but I couldn’t have performed any better, I’m just so proud.
“He’s a big scalp. If you’d told me I’d lose every game here and beat Robert Paxton, I’d have snapped your hand off.
“We read stories about Jamaican sport and it’s all about participation, so it feels great not just to have participated but to have won a big match too. It’s amazing to represent your country and be the first to do it.”
Newell’s journey to the Commonwealth Games started on a park in south London and he hopes his unlikely story will now inspire some of the children he works with.
“The kids have got more and more interested as the Games got closer, it would be pretty cool to see a few of them start playing too,” he added.
“I started 15 years ago in Battersea Park and I just loved it straight away. I used to go down the park and see these guys playing bowls and I thought ‘I’d like a go at that’.
“Me and Mum would watch the bowls on television and one day I was off work and I just called a local club and never looked back.”
And with that Newell, who beat India’s Krishna Xalxo later in the day, was off – as Bob Marley’s ‘Sun is Shining’ was played over the public address.
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