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January is traditionally when indoor sports get their moment

12/01/2017

January is traditionally when indoor sports get their moment, if not in the sun, then at least in the TV schedules. The World Indoor Bowls Championships are up and running (or at least standing) at the Potters Resort in Norfolk and the BBC will cover the latter stages. I presented bowls a while back and always wondered why a woman couldn’t match the men. After all, in the amateur game, most competitions are mixed and women often outplay the men.

It’s a sign of progress that, in 2017, for the first time three women have qualified for the last 32 of the male-dominated World Championships. Debbie Wilford of New Zealand, Julie Forrest of Scotland and Janice Gower of England have made history. Gower faces the 2006 champion and three times runner up Mervyn King in the first round.

‘We can play the men and beat the men,’ she says. ‘Myself, Julie and Debbie have proved that. It’s nothing to do with strength. It’s to do with skill, tactics and ability.’

The same should be true in darts and yet men seem more able to land three arrows in the right section of a cork board from seven feet, nine and a quarter inches away. The Channel 4 and BT Sport cameras are at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green (just off the M3) for the BDO World Championships this week.

The women’s game is certainly growing, with 16 setting out to battle for a winner’s cheque of £12,000 (the men’s winner will bank £100,000). The sentimental favourite will be top seed Deta Hedman, who has been runner-up three times in the last five years. Hedman was the first woman to beat a man in a televised match back in 2005, but she sees the gap being one of mental, rather than physical strength.

‘Their focus is a lot better than ours. We have too much going on between our ears,’ she says.

Hedman plays darts when not working 14-hour shifts for the Royal Mail, often finishing at four in the morning. On the Monday after the final, whatever happens, she will be back at work. First class effort.

 

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