Sophie heads to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
It’s all about precision, judgement and strategy as competitors aim to dominate the green. Competitors may look calm on the outside but are determined to win. Welcome to lawn bowls where our very own Senior Management Personal Assistant Sophie Tolchard is competing.
Winner of 8 National Championships, Sophie won a gold medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the World Outdoor Championships in Australia in 2016. Sophie will compete this April on the Gold Coast, Australia.
When did you start playing bowls?
I started bowling at the age of 13 which was 13 years ago! My Dad used to play competitively and it wasn't long before my brother followed in his footsteps, so after spending years at lots of bowling greens watching I decided to give it a go. I have grown up with the sport in my family as my Granddad played for England.
Bowls runs in the family, your brother Sam Tolchard is competing as well, do you get quite competitive with your brother?
Yes! We have always been very competitive with each other but we only get the opportunity to play with and against each other in mixed pairs and fours competitions. The first National Title I won was in 2008 with my brother in the Mixed Fours competition, this was a really proud moment for me and my family.
The Gold Coast will be our second Commonwealth Games together.
Do you ever get nervous?
Yes I still get a bit nervous at major events as you know what is at stake and you just don't want to feel like you have let anyone down.
Photo: The England Junior International Team where Sophie [first row, fourth from the left] was captain in Derry, July 2017.
What is the best thing about competing at the Commonwealth games?
There are so many great things about competing in the Commonwealth Games, from the opening ceremony to being part of the athletes village and seeing what actually goes on in there as it's often kept very secret to the outside world. But there is no better feeling than going out to compete and represent Team England as the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle for our sport.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting into bowls?
You don't actually realise how difficult it is until you have a go! If you can't or don't want to take part in a strenuous activity, such as rugby or football then Lawn Bowls is a great sport to take up as its highly focused on skill and precision. It is also a great opportunity to meet new people as there is a big social side to the game off the green so you can choose be as competitive as you want to be.
The best thing about bowls is that anyone at any age can give it a go and it's one of the few sports you can continue to play to a high level with family members.