11:00AM, Friday 28 May 2021
Andy Knapper, middle, winning World triples gold in 2016
SLIMMED-DOWN Andy Knapper believes a lockdown fitness blitz will benefit his bowls as he prepares to return to competitive action.
The England international has shed six-and-a-half stone since catching the running bug last year and has had to ‘adapt to a new body’ since returning to the green in recent weeks.
Knapper pinpoints his exercise regime as the key to maintaining his mental and physical wellbeing over an otherwise tough period, with the Whiteknights Indoor Bowls Club he manages in Reading unable to re-open since March 2020.
“I’ve been part-time, furloughed and working from home so it has been a tricky time,” said Taplow's Knapper, speaking ahead of Bowls’ Big Weekend between Friday, May 28 and Monday, May 31.
“As a competitive person, I needed something to get my teeth into. It started off with completing couch to 5k and I just kept pushing myself.
“I’ve now started to run half marathons and I’m really enjoying it. I used to be someone who looked at runners and thought ‘where’s the fun in that’ but it has been brilliant for me.
“It became less about the physical side and more mental – how far are you willing to push yourself through the pain barrier? Once you start doing that, it’s amazing how far you can go.
“I feel mentally stronger now and I’m sure it will benefit my bowls, especially as at the top level you can end up playing relentlessly over consecutive days.”
The motivation behind Knapper’s fitness drive stemmed from a desire to compete at next summer’s Commonwealth Games, with the lawn bowls to be held at Victoria Park in Leamington Spa.
The 39-year-old won fours silver and pairs bronze at Glasgow 2014 and selection for next summer’s team has taken on added significance given the cancellation of the World Outdoor Championships in Australia, denying Knapper the chance to defend the triples gold his trio won in 2016.
“It’s gutting but you have to put these things in perspective given everything that has happened over the past year,” he said.
“The Commonwealth Games is the ultimate aim for us all and I feel I have unfinished business, having lost close games in 2014 when I felt two golds were up for grabs.
“I’ve seen both sides of it, winning medals in 2014 and missing out four years later. It’s pretty heart-breaking when you miss out so my focus is purely on making that team.”
Knapper is among 16 bowlers in contention for England’s Commonwealth Games squad – ten will make the final cut – and hopes the upcoming Bowls’ Big Weekend will see some stars of tomorrow uncovered at clubs across the country, with over 600 opening their doors to participate.
“People are itching to get out and there has never been a more important time for bowls clubs to recruit,” said Knapper, who lives in Tilehurst with wife Laura and daughters Evie, six, and Chloe, two.
“Bowls is such an inclusive game and if you’re willing to put the effort in, you can get good at any age.
“The friends I’ve made around the world over the past 25 years have been unbelievable. It’s unlike any other sport in that respect.”
Find your nearest participating club at http://www.bowlsbigweekend.com