Striking gold

Local lawn bowler scores big win for Team Canada

When Steven Santana was feeling nervous during the gold medal match, he kept telling himself to focus on the fundamentals of the game. It worked.

Santana and his partner went on to win the Asia Pacific Lawn Bowls Championship held Nov. 24-Dec. 6 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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It's the first time in 11 years that Canadians have won a gold medal at the tournament.

Santana, who is from North Vancouver and is a member of the West Vancouver Lawn Bowling Club, and his bowling partner, Ryan Bester of Ontario, defeated the Australians in the semifinal game, before winning 17-12 over Malaysia in the gold medal match.

According to Santana, toppling the Australian and Malaysian lawn bowling teams was a big accomplishment.

"In the Asia Pacific (tournament), they're the top two countries to beat. Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, so they're your top three countries - they live, breathe, and do bowls all the time. Those guys play against each other all the time down there, too," he said.

Despite Canada's success in the tournament, Santana is modest when describing his mindset going into the final match against Malaysia.

"Down there they had the cameras and the boom cameras set up there on the rink, so I was a little nervous trying to settle down the butterflies for about halfway through the game," he said.

Santana said there were approximately 300 people watching the game in the stands, but the match was televised around the world for lawn bowling fans to watch.

Santana eventually calmed his nerves by focusing on the essentials of lawn bowling.

"I just told myself to go back to fundamentals. 'Just calm down, you're just rolling bowls. Just pretend you're just practising and just try to get them close,'" he said.

This is when the pair started to pick up momentum and came out with the win.

Santana, who has been lawn bowling for 23 years, joked that his grandparents originally tried to dissuade him from playing the game.

"When I was a kid, I wanted to try it out at the time, back in the early '90s, but they wouldn't let me play because they said I was too young. That got me a little motivated," he said.

Santana said later on his father got involved with the sport and the two started playing together.

"He started playing and then he ended up getting me to start playing, and that's kind of how it all suddenly happened," he said. "It was something we could do together."

Santana, who is a big lawn bowling advocate and the director of operations for Bowls B.C., rejected the stereotype that lawn bowling is a game mainly for senior citizens.

He argued that, "Like any sport, it's a sport for all ages. In lawn bowling, anyone can compete at any age level."

He said, however, that, "Countries like New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia all have very young teams and they're the ones winning medals."

According to Santana, Canada is now also part of that younger, competitive batch of lawn bowlers that's moving the sport into exciting new directions.

A winning result coming out of this tournament has ensured that Team Canada, along with Santana, will be able to compete next year at the renowned World Bowls Championship.

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