AS A sport, lawn bowls is not often known for its nail-biting late finishes.
But the hopes of one of Scotland’s leading Commonwealth Games gold medal prospects look like being a close-run thing.
Four-times world indoor champion Paul Foster is eagerly awaiting the return of his “priceless” set of bowls from Police Scotland ahead of his meet-up with the Games squad next week.
Three of a set of four specially-made bowls were stolen from his locker at Troon Portland Bowling Club in Ayrshire.
Since being recovered they have been sent for forensic analysis and Foster has been given “no assurances” on getting them back in time for the Games.
The unusual heist took place at his club on Monday and he immediately made a plea for their return. One was found in the back of a taxi and the remaining two were recovered from a skip.
The bowler, who was awarded an MBE this year, had trained with them four times a week for the past three months. While police combed the town, he began getting used to the weight and feel of a new set.
Foster said: “It’s going to be a big, late call. I meet up with the squad for three days’ training in Stirling on Tuesday so if I don’t have them by Monday night, I’ll have to go with the new ones.
“It’s far from ideal. Bowls is a pretty psychological sport – if you don’t feel right in yourself or with your equipment then you won’t play well. It has upset my training a good deal but I’m determined to not let it beat me.”
He added: “I would like to thank the police, the media, the public and everyone who has helped the police in the campaign to find them in such a short space of time.”
This will be the sportsman’s third Commonwealth Games and he has not ruled out the possibility that the theft was carried out by a rival with a view to scuppering his gold medal chances.
He said: “I don’t think it was anyone in the club but when you lose such a limited edition set of bowls so near to the Commonwealth Games, you do wonder. There were other bags and sets within the locker room and they weren’t touched. It is quite possible that someone is trying to play with my head before the Games.”
Ordered from Australia, the stolen set are blue Henselite Tiger bowls with white speckling and each one features a picture of this summer’s Commonwealth Games venue, the Kelvin Hall, in the centre.
Police Scotland refused to be drawn on how long it might take for the bowls to be returned.
A spokeswoman said: “Following an investigation into a break-in at Troon Portland Bowling Club, inquiries carried out by officers have led to the recovery of a number of stolen items, including the lawn bowls.
“Officers would like to thank the many members of the public who contacted them with information following the appeal made yesterday. This information is being assessed with relevant leads being followed up.”
Foster, who also owns a taxi firm in Troon, won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Melbourne in 2006 with his pairs partner Alex Marshall.
He has also won four world indoor singles championship titles and six world pairs titles, both indoors and outdoors, and is No1 in the world bowls tour singles rankings.
Despite the theft, he remains confident of bagging another medal: “This year is huge, it’s a home Games in front of friends and family, and I’m sure that will spur me on.”