If you’ve loved the Games and aren’t looking forward to the comedown, then spare a thought for the competitors who have day jobs. Policemen like to say that crimefighting isn’t as exciting as it sounds and maybe Darren
Burnett would agree.
The polisman from Arbroath is due back at work on Tuesday, although he reckons he might be able to spin things out for a little longer. “The force have been great about me competing in the Games because for my colleagues, all leave has been cancelled,” he said. “But my boss told me that if I won the gold medal I could have an extra day off. I’m going to hold him to that.”
Burnett, 38, beat Canada’s Ryan Bester to take the top prize by a score of 21-9 and make it a golden Kelvingrove hat-trick for Scotland. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said of the triumph he can add to his world indoor singles title. “It’s been a whirlwind year, really. First the world and now this. These are tough things to win at any time let alone in the same year. Has that been done before? I don’t know. This is hard to take in but let me tell you it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Burnett, as it customary, was slow to get going, and Bester led by three after the first three ends. “Yes, I’ll have to do something about these starts,” he said, “but thankfully I didn’t let the game go. I lost a few ones, maybe a two, but it wasn’t a disaster.”
The Canadian was wearing a cap to shield his eyes against the strong early-evening sun which threw shadows across the green from the surrounding trees. With church bells pealing on the quarter-hour, there had been no more prettier venue at these Games but, if the bools was to have the perfect end for Scotland and a third gold, Burnett had to start connecting with his drives. Finally, in the fourth end, he did.
In the next one he turned 1-3 into 5-3, forcing Bester to drive, the Canadian taking out his own best-placed bowl. Then 5-3 became 8-3 when Bester fired another boomer, missing all targets. “I got into the game and had to make him play attack,” explained Burnett. “He’s good at it but, thankfully, he missed a few today.
“Possibly the four was the turning point. I just thought if I could keep drawing consistently, put him under pressure. If I could make him play more runners than me I would have a great chance. I haven’t seen him miss as often as that, and I was scoring quite heavily when he did miss.”
Among the crowd, happily baking on Kelvingrove’s final contribution to the Games, were Scotland’s triumphant fours, looking quite refreshed when the green-side cameras flashed them onto the big screen – and Burnett’s wife Linsey and daughters Isla and Evie in their pink “Go Daddy!” T-shirts.
Linsey is in the same force and has had similar shift-juggling issues so she could get to Glasgow to cheer on her man. “Thankfully this was a day off for her but she’s managed to get up and down, bringing the girls as often as she could, because this has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to compete for Scotland in a home Games. It’s been great to have them in the crowd on the most important day.”
Burnett, too, has enjoyed the backing of his fellow coppers, those on Tayside and others on duty in Glasgow. “When I passed through security at the Games they always made a point of saying: ‘You better win.’ Last night, a colleague came down to the Games Village to pass on the best wishes of my division. The whole of the police have been 100 per cent behind me.”
With that kind of backing, what chance did Bester have? He was able to peg Burnett back in the eighth end, making it 10-5, but cries of “‘mon Darren!” greeted the restoration of the seven-shot advantage. At 14-7 it was still intact. The 15th end produced some stunning precision shots from both players, with each bettering the other until Bester was able to narrow the deficit to five.
That would be as close as he got. Another whomper – bowls people, don’t write in, I know this isn’t a technical term – once again sent his bowls spinning into the ditch and Burnett increased the lead to 17-9, never to loosen it again.
The bowlers have had a great Glasgow 2014 and the champ thinks the Games will do wonders for the sport. “To get three gold medals is incredible,” he said. “That’s what we wanted and hopefully the achievement will have inspired those who weren’t bowlers to come and watch. Maybe they’ll watch bowls more often now. Maybe one or two will start to play it. I mean, how could you not be inspired by this place? What a fantastic setting.”
The sun was still shining on Kelvingrove as Burnett twisted his medal and made it glint. A celebration? “Yes I think I could manage one of them,” he laughed. Especially now he’s got that extra day to recover.