THIS time, the celebration was a little more subdued: applause and kisses for the crowd, photographs in front of the saltire and, of course, a proud moment on the podium. When you have just cruised to victory in a lawn bowls final so one-sided that it bordered on the farcical, there is not much cause for rampaging about Kelvingrove with your fist in the air.
Just 24 hours after he had celebrated his last-gasp semi-final win against England with a “get it up ye” gesture that upset the traditionalists, Alex Marshall combined with Paul Foster to win gold for Scotland in a pairs match against Malaysia that was quite literally a walk in the park.
As the sun beat down on Glasgow’s leafy west end, the Malaysians never got started. They were 8-0 behind after four ends, 19-0 down after 12 and, by the time 90 minutes of what passed for competition had elapsed, a 20-3 final score was registered. You wondered if Foster’s beetroot complexion was down to sunburn or embarrassment.
It was a stuffing all right, bigger than half the animals had been given in the nearby museum, but it should not be allowed to detract from the Scots’ achievement. Their gold was Scotland’s 12th of these Commonwealth Games, breaking the record set in Melbourne eight years ago. It was also a third pairs gold for Marshall, who partnered Foster to victory in 2006 and George Sneddon in 2002. The man they call Tattie ought to be renamed Golden Wonder.
“It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I’ve won two gold medals before in the Commonwealth Games, but this tops the lot. Winning it in front of your own fans – you just can’t beat it. We got off to a really good start. Paul was phenomenal from start to finish and that makes my job a lot easier. You just need to keep going and going and going, and that’s what we did. This is the highlight of my career. That’s the 12th gold for Scotland, which has broken another record.”
If the climax was not all it might have been, these Games have been a shot in the arm for bowls. First, the venue has been a revelation, resting between the trees of Kelvingrove Park and the red sandstone of its famous art gallery and museum. Saltires drape from the windows of nearby tenements as though it were the most natural amphitheatre in the world.
Then there is Marshall, who has inadvertently established himself as one of Glasgow 2014’s most memorable characters. His celebration against England was prompted by two thrilling 11th-hour deliveries that, according to aficionados, were as good as anyone in the sport has produced.
“If what happened [against England] doesn’t encourage people to play bowls, I don’t know what will,” he said. “It certainly helps. It’s probably more publicity than we’ve had before. Hopefully that will enhance the crowds.”
Of course, that publicity was thanks to more than just the bowls. There was a catcall from the crowd in Sunday’s semi-final, as well as suggestions that Marshall’s celebration was anti-English, something he was keen to deny yesterday.
“It was nothing like that,” he said. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. There was one comment came from the crowd during the whole game about hurrying up, but it wasn’t aimed at the English. I’m not that way inclined. Scotland and England bowlers get on very well, probably the best of anybody, so there is nothing aimed at the English at all. Anybody would have done much the same as I did. At the end of a game like that when I’m pushing for a gold-medal position, you’re not going to just stand and shake hands with your opponents. You want to celebrate.”
If Hibs had been his opponents, well, that would be another matter. “Aye that would be different,” said the 47-year-old Hearts fan from Tranent. “It would be the 5-1 sign.”
He and Foster make a great partnership. Marshall was best man at Foster’s wedding. The 41-year-old from Troon can trust his elder colleague, on and off the bowling green. “It’s unbelievable,” said Foster. “Any time you’ve had a bad bowl, the man never turns round and says ‘you need to get them up’ or ‘you need to try harder’. He backs me to the hilt and encourages me 150 per cent. That’s why we bounce off each other. I know his game inside out, he knows mine. That’s why we’re so good.”
It was time for each to indulge in a show of appreciation, for the Glasgow crowd, for the families who backed them and for the organisations who sponsored them, but mainly, it was a time for paying tribute to each other. Foster said that he counted himself fortunate to compete alongside a player that others were “queuing up” to partner. Marshall insisted that, while he had taken the plaudits for their win against England, it was his sidekick that won them the final. Foster’s display in the first ten ends was an “exhibition”, the like of which he had never seen before.
“I wouldn’t say the match was straightforward,” said Foster. “The Malaysians were very unlucky on a lot of occasions. It’s probably the best game that I’ve played in the competition. It makes a change when Alex doesn’t have a lot to do. He was the man who got us into the semi-final and that’s my pay-back to him.
“I didn’t think anything would top winning the gold with Alex in the pairs in 2006 but this does. It’s phenomenal, a feeling that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”