For many, one of the enduring memories of Glasgow 2014 was Alex Marshall’s “get it up ye” gesture as he and his Scotland pairs partner Paul Foster produced a magnificent comeback to claim victory over England in the semi-finals, before going on to earn gold against Malaysia in the final.
While some read more into the emotional gesticulation than the adrenaline-fuelled Scot intended, others loved the passionate outburst, and, as the lawn bowls team for next spring’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast was announced in Stirling yesterday, Marshall said that one way or another it is a moment he has been happy to relive time and time again in the past three years.
“After the Commonwealth Games, I was going along in the open-deck bus and people were shouting out and asking if I was the guy who did the ‘Tattie Marshall’,” he recalls with a smile. The man who was also a member of the quartet who topped the podium in the Fours at Kelvingrove, has enjoyed seeing his pumped-up pose lumped in with the iconic Lightning Bolt and Mobot across the internet.
“To be in the same boat as Usain Bolt and Mo Farah... there was a picture of three people doing their actions and I was at the back of the two of them. It was massive for me to be in the same picture. It was doing the rounds on social media and to be tagged with those two guys was amazing for me. The publicity was tremendous and it was a great feeling, walking about the streets. Glasgow was the best Commonwealth Games I’ve ever been involved with, given the home support we had, especially after getting off to a great start we just went from strength to strength. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that in my life.”
The ten-strong squad of bowlers are likely to be key members of the Scottish contingent in Australia, in April, when the team bosses are targeting the biggest -ever haul of medals from an overseas Games.
Jon Doig OBE, Team Scotland chef de mission, said he was “delighted” to welcome our first athletes to Team Scotland 2018, adding: “We are off to a strong start with swimming and lawn bowls, two of Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games sports with a track record of success in Australia. They are also two of Australia’s top sports, so we can count on a fantastic atmosphere and tough competition in Gold Coast.”
Marshall’s antics, and his heroics, in Glasgow have ensured that many, many more home fans will be tracing his performances when he competes at his sixth Games. He is hoping to live up to expectations and will take inspiration from 2014.
“Some people thought it was a gesture targeted at someone,” he said. “There was a comment that came from the crowd, but it wasn’t targeted at anyone, it was a build- up of emotion and you’ve got to release the pressure at some point. To play two bowls as I did within a few inches to win the match and put us into a gold medal play-off, why shouldn’t I celebrate? It was more a celebration than anything else.
“It seems as if it was only last week, I can’t believe it was almost four years ago. The time has flown past so quickly. I watch it from time to time, if I’m not playing so well during the week I’ll look at it to give me a little buzz again, especially against the Auld Enemy.”
Pressed on how often he means when he talks about “time to time”, he laughs. “I’ve watched it back hundreds of times. And I’ll keep watching it because it won us a gold medal for Team Scotland and it helps my confidence going into games. We were under the cosh for the whole game, chasing it from the very start. To win it as we did put us in a great place to beat Malaysia quite convincingly in the final.
“Indoors or outdoor season, you want the bragging rights and it was because of the two bowls we played. We prepared for two years and had booklets to tell us the best and worst hands to play. It was the worst hand in the whole green, so to play two bowls like that to get to the final was amazing. It was a celebration, nothing to do with Scotland against England.”
It earned Marshall and Foster another gold for their impressive collection and painted their sport in a more vibrant hue.
“People think bowls is a boring game, but it’s like a football player scoring the winner four minutes into injury time,” Marshall added. “If that happens in a game between Manchester United and City, or Celtic versus Rangers, you’re not going to just score your goal and then walk back into your own half. You need to celebrate and I took the opportunity to do that. These things don’t happen every day, that was something that happens every five, ten, 20 years.”
Foster joins him in the team again, as does reigning Commonwealth singles champion Darren Burnett, although a decision has still to be made on who will play in each of the events.
“To be involved and selected is a dream. Six times representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games is an honour and I’m still committed and still feel as if I have another four years in me,” said Marshall, who even with six Commonwealth appearances, would trail fellow bowler Willie Wood, who holds the record for the most, with seven.
The 50-year-old, though, appears to have aspirations to at least equal that. “I still feel I’m good enough and playing some of the best bowls of my career,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and, as long as I still have this competitive spirit within me, I will keep playing, for four or 12 years. I’m a better bowler now than going into my first Commonwealth Games, at Kuala Lumpur in 1996. I was inexperienced and there were a lot more nerves but, after you’ve been through it four or five times, you get used to the feeling and I have great faith in my own ability going forward into Queensland.”