Robert Barr will never forget being part of the audience of 40,000 in Celtic Park at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
But the visually-impaired bowler never imagined then he would be chosen to represent his country at the next Games in 2018.
Robert, a member of Glasgow west end Jordanhill Bowling Club, will be part of the Scotland team on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on the April 4 next year.
His remarkable journey started in September 2015 when he attended a disability sport event held on the Commonwealth Games greens at The Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre to identify new talent.
“I thought it would be difficult to adapt my style of play to the visually impaired game but found on the day that I adjusted quite quickly,” says Robert.
“I was very fortunate to be identified at Kelvingrove and director David Thomas has helped a lot in my development along with my Glasgow-based director and coach Chris Morrow.”
After the event, Robert was selected for the Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) para bowlers visually-impaired development squad and quickly progressed into the national squad attending regular training events in Falkirk.
Robert went on to become a member of the SDS Home Nations para bowls team crowned 2016 champions on the greens at Kelvingrove where he also won all his matches.
Following participation in a number of Scottish Association of Blind Bowlers tournaments, Robert won the SDS indoor singles title in 2016 and the 2017 SDS Scottish visually impaired outdoor singles held at the Bowls Scotland National Championships in Northfield, Ayr.
National selection then followed for Robert as part of the SDS and Bowls Scotland squad who travelled to Australia earlier this year for an Eight Nations test event.
“Sarah Jane Ewing was my director in Australia and we went on to win the Silver medal against the home nation in the final.
“The tournament was held at Broadbeach Bowling Club which will be the venue of the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” says Robert.
“It was a huge experience to travel that distance to play bowls and to get the opportunity to play on the greens and at the venue for the Commonwealth Games was incredible.”
In that tournament Robert partnered 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist Irene Edgar in the mixed pairs B2/B3 visually impaired category.
“Irene has a huge amount of experience from a distinguished career in bowls and since her silver medal in 2014 has competed in South Africa, Israel and Australia.”
On St Andrews Day Robert was announced in the Team Scotland para bowlers squad for the 2018 Games.
He says: “This is one of the biggest achievements in my life. When I stood on the podium at the Eight Nations event it suddenly sank in that if you were to win then you would be standing listening to your National Anthem and I got goosebumps thinking about it.”
Robert, who works for D Gibson Singmakers in Rutherglen admits that balancing work, training and competing is difficult.
His dad, Robert Snr, who is also a bowler at Jordanhill, is absolutely delighted that his son has been chosen to represent his country.
Robert admits that the hard works starts now with coaching sessions running twice a week up until the squads departure and noted.
“Staying in the Commonwealth Village and only playing one game a day instead of the three games we would typically play means that time management will become very important”
“Realistically to medal would be a huge achievement in such a competitive field.
“To beat Australia on their home greens is going to be very difficult but with our ability and experience it won’t stop us trying and we hope to return to Scotland as part of a successful squad.”
Following his meteoric rise to Commonwealth Games selection Robert wants to encourage others, whether visually impaired, physically disabled or not to try the sport.
“It’s a fun sport with health benefits as well as challenging your mind with tactics.
“It’s a sport which is very accessible and one which you can play on your own as well as in a team which is fun and creates social interaction opportunities.
“If you are interested then seek out some help and support from Scottish Disability Sport or Bowls Scotland.
“There are clubs out there for you to come along and Try Bowls.
* Tom Hamilton is Bowls Scotland director of marketing and communications