Friday, September 24, 2010

Keith Roney, 62, competes in his fourth Commonwealth Games

Keith Roney is anxious to address one of the few remaining voids in his highly successful lawn bowling career.

The 62-year-old Reginan has competed for Canada at three Commonwealth Games without bringing home a medal. He hopes that will change at the 2010 Games, which are set for Oct. 3-14 in New Delhi, India.

"We've been knocking on the door at the Commonwealth Games — at least on the teams that I've been on,'' Roney said. "We've just come up a little bit short. We're hoping to improve on the close calls.''

Roney previously bowled at the Games in 1998 (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as part of Canada's men's fours team), 2002 (Manchester, England; men's fours) and 2006 (Melbourne, Australia; men's pairs). This time around, he is to bowl in men's pairs alongside 44-year-old Michel Larue of Longueuil, Que.

"We were close in Kuala Lumpur,'' Roney recalled. "It was a bit unfortunate. We wound up having three ties, and a 3-3-3 record. If the ties had been converted into wins, we would have gotten a medal. Could've been, should've been . . .''

Four years later, Roney & Co. were eliminated in a quarterfinal in Manchester. Roney and Larue then teamed up for the 2006 Games.

"We've got a bit of unfinished business,'' Roney said. "At the past Commonwealth Games, we lost a semifinal for a medal. We want to improve on that result.''

That said, it is difficult to improve on the results Roney has achieved since becoming a member of Bowls Canada's national team in 1988. He has travelled the world, competing in the most prestigious lawn bowling events.

Most notably, Roney teamed up with Ryan Bester of Hanover, Ont., to win the world pairs title in 2004 in Ayr, Scotland — where Roney and Bester became the first Canadians to finish first in an event at the worlds since the event began in 1966. As well, Roney was part of Canada's men's triples team that won a bronze medal at the 2008 worlds in Christchurch, New Zealand.

"It has sort of been an amazing ride,'' marvelled Roney, who was the curator of life sciences at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum until retiring in 2006.

"It's still quite a commitment to play at a high level, although age is not a factor. It's just a matter of staying in shape and maintaining the skill level.''

That can be difficult when the Regina Lawn Bowling Club's greens are covered with snow. As a result, Roney routinely competes in temperate areas of the United States during January and February.

As a tuneup for the Commonwealth Games, Roney and his fellow members of the national team recently competed against the United States' elite bowlers in Milwaukee. He hopes that the impressive showing in Wisconsin will serve as a catalyst for greater successes in India.

"It really doesn't get much cooler,'' Roney said of competing in the Commonwealth Games on behalf of his country. "I've done it for a number of years, but it never loses its edge or its thrill.

"It's always there, and it's always an honour to play for Canada and compete — especially when you march into the stadium and you're wearing the Canadian maple leaf. No matter how many times you do that, it's still very exciting. There's really not much that can compare to it.''

Except, perhaps, for winning an elusive Commonwealth Games medal.

"I'm so hungry I can taste it,'' Roney said.

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