Canadian lawn bowler Ryan Bester denied gold at Commonwealth Games again - InfoNews

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Canadian lawn bowler Ryan Bester denied gold at Commonwealth Games again

Canada's Ryan Bester rolls his last ball on his way to losing to Australia's Aaron Wilson in the men's Lawn bowling final at the Commonwealth Games Friday, April 13, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
April 13, 2018 - 10:33 AM

GOLD COAST, Australia - Canadian Ryan Bester was denied lawn bowls gold for the second time in four years Friday at the Commonwealth Games, this time by a flamboyant Australian.

Aaron Wilson rallied from a 7-2 deficit after seven ends to lead 16-8 after 15, piling the pressure on Bester. And the 26-year-old Commonwealth Game debutante did it in style, stalking his throws, using body English to urge the ball on and celebrating successful shots with a Tiger Woods-like fist pump.

Bester, who now calls the Gold Coast home, mounted a last-ditch defence but it was too little too late. Wilson scored two shots in the 22nd end for a 21-14 win.

The Australian hugged his coach and then whipped off his shirt for a celebratory lap. It was tribute to Kelvin Kerkow, the last Australian to win the event at the games. Kerkow celebrated his 2006 triumph in Melbourne by ripping off his shirt before being mobbed by teammates who carried him around the green on their shoulders while AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" played.

The 33-year-old Bester, a native of Hanover, Ont., who also won bronze in 2006, was classy in defeat to a man he counts as a good friend.

"I just didn't play my best, but Aaron didn't really let me because he played really well," said Bester.

"A couple of months ago I said (Wilson) could be the best player in the world at the moment," he added. "He's a good player and he's only going to get better.

England's Robert Paxton won bronze, defeating defending champion Darren Burnett of Scotland 21-14 on an adjacent green.

The crowd at the well-appointed Broadbeach Beach Club was solidly behind Wilson, despite the fact that Bester has called the Gold Coast home for more than a decade and serves as the Broadbeach club's bowl manager.

The match started in the late afternoon and finished under the lights at the beachfront club. Music by the likes of The Police, Depeche Mode and Foster The People played at low volume in the background as the two players engaged in a chess game on grass with a well-educated bowls audience watching from the stands, many with a beer in hand.

The final was a heavyweight tilt with wild momentum swings. Bester lost the first end but won five of the next six to take a 7-2 lead.

Wilson, looking to shake things up, took a page out of Bester's book in the eighth end. He sent the jack flying with a drive — an art Bester is known for — en route to scoring two and triggering an 14-1 run.

Wilson's consistent draw weight had Bester on the ropes. The Canadian changed tactics, opting for hard drives but he could not slow down the Aussie.

"He (Bester) stuck with it all the time," said Wilson. "He's one of the best players in the world. He's going to keep going at you and going at you, you just have to hang tough as long as you can, and I did it today and got the win."

Still Bester was shaking his head in frustration in the final ends.

The Canadian, competing in his fifth Commonwealth Games, gave a thumbs-up as he received his medal. It will going a collection of honours that includes the 2004 world pairs title with Keith Roney.

The silver medal was symbolic of a fine Canadian team lawn bowls performance that likely deserved more than it got. The women's singles, pairs, triples and fours entries as well as the men's triples all lost in the bronze-medal match.

Bester beat competitors from the Isle of Man, Botswana, Papua New Guinea, Jersey, and Northern Ireland before defeating a South African in the quarterfinal.

In the semifinal earlier in the day, Bester avenged his 21-9 loss to Burnett four years ago at the Glasgow Games by dispatching the Scottish policeman 21-19 in a seesaw battle.

The Gold Coast is a hotbed for lawn bowls, helped by the fact that many clubs also feature slot machines. Bester's club has 48 such machines plus a full restaurant and bar in addition to top-notch facilities.

Bester's home club boasts 250 bowling members. And there are 22 other clubs on the Gold Coast.

"If you go for ice hockey you go to Canada. If you go for bowls you come down here," Bester explained.

The Commonwealth Games rank up there with the world championships in lawn bowls.

Bester has now lost in four straight finals to a bowler from the host country — Australia's Wilson here, New Zealand's Shannon McIlroy at the 2016 World Outdoor Bowls Championship in Christchurch, Scotland's Burnett at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Australia's Leif Selby at the 2012 worlds in Adelaide.

Lawn bowls is a family affair — Bester's uncle and grandfather played and Bester started playing at age 10. Ryan won the Canadian fours title with his father and two older brothers. He also won two Canadian pairs crowns with his dad.

— Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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