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Dill still hungry for success

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June Dill, representing Bermuda in her first NatWest International Island Games where she will be the oldest member of the team (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

More than 40 years after captaining the first netball team to represent Bermuda overseas in the Caribbean Netball Championships in the Bahamas in 1977, June Dill still gets excited about competing for her country internationally.

Netball is in the past, now it is bowling that Dill is passionate about these days, after getting more into the sport around the time her netball career was finishing about 30 years ago.

She packed her bags and flew out last night with her bowling team-mates for her latest overseas competition, her first NatWest International Island Games in Gibraltar where, at the age of 68, she will be the oldest member of the Bermuda team of 52 athletes representing nine sports.

Bowling has taken her to countries such as Egypt, Poland, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, France and South Africa, but this will be her first time competing in the Island Games.

“Netball took me to some exciting countries, but bowling has taken me to places that one wouldn’t normally think of visiting,” said Dill, referring to a place like Abu Dhabi where they competed in the World Bowling Championships.

Dill comes from a sporting family. Brother Randy Horton was outstanding in both cricket and football and played for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.

Her sister, Ellen-Kate Horton, was a member of Bermuda’s Big Blue Machine softball team that won the gold at the CAC Games in 1978 in Medellin, Colombia. Ellen-Kate’s daughter, Katura Horton-Perinchief, is a former diver, the first black female diver to compete at the Olympics (2004).

“How I got into bowling was whilst I was playing netball my good friend Bobbie Jones was picked to represent Bermuda in the FIQ American Zone Championships in Wichita, Kansas, in 1989,” Dill explained. “She didn’t make the team outright, she finished eighth or ninth and they took the top six.

“Somebody in that top six couldn’t go and the next person in line couldn’t go either and it fell down to her being the next person in line. I told her I would go with her for support.

“When I got there and was watching the tournament I thought to myself ‘I can do this’. Her husband was the coach and he wanted me to start bowling and I told them when I finished netball I would start bowling and that’s what I did.

“At that tournament I purchased a pair of shoes and a ball, but I wasn’t serious. I started playing when we got back but not seriously because I was still playing netball.

“It wasn’t until a few years later when I finished playing netball that I said that this would be my sport. I’ve always been competitive, in bowling there is no age limit as long as you are pretty physically fit and can knock the pins down.

“In international competitions they have senior senior tournaments and I’m probably a senior senior, 65 and over. Then there are seniors 55 to 65 and then the adult open. The Pan American Bowling Confederation have a Super Senior league, 65 and over, and then a Senior league from 55 to up to 65. The Adult League is open to any age level.”

Dill was already in her forties when she was selected for the Bermuda bowling team for the first time. “The first time I tried out for the national team was in 1993 when they were going to Singapore, but I didn’t make that team,” she recalls.

“Two years later we went to Guadalajara [Mexico] to an American Zone Championships and I made that team, and have been making the national team since then.

“What it comes down to is who can knock down the most pins. It is a bit more technical than people realise, but because of my age I don’t get involved in the technicalities much. If I have a coach who says ‘June, I want you to do XYZ’, then that’s what I try to do. Isn’t that what coaches are for?”

Dill competes in bowling on Thursdays at the Warwick Lanes. “I only bowl in the Thursday night league, a classic league,” she said. “This league is supposed to be the league to enhance your bowling, the same conditions we are likely to find when we go abroad to international tournaments.

“This will be our first time competing in the Island Games so we don’t know what the calibre of competition is going to be like.

“But, of course, everybody goes to win, nobody sets out to go to any competition with the idea of coming in second or third. You go with the expectation of winning, that should be everybody’s goal in every sport. That’s my mindset.”

Dill captained AICO in the local netball league, a team she helped to form and who became one of the top teams locally. She went on to become the first captain of the Bermuda team when they went to the Caribbean.

“I was on the first national team in 1977,” she said, pointing out that their first victory internationally came against Cayman Islands 41-21 in the tournament in Nassau.

“Goal defence was my position in our first international tournament, that’s where I played most of the time, but in that same tournament the goalkeeper got injured in our first game so I dropped back as goalkeeper.”

The highlight of Dill’s netball career was being selected as the only Bermudian to play for a West Indies netball team, when the team toured England in 1987 for a Test series against England.

“Debbie Saltus was the umpire, the Caribbean netball considered her highly,” Dill pointed out. “She was invited to go as the umpire, and I was the only player from Bermuda to make the team after two of us tried out.

“We were selected to try out for the West Indies from the Caribbean tournament we went to in St Lucia. I still have my tracksuit from that tournament!

“It should always be an honour to represent your country, that’s certainly how I was brought up.”

June Dill, warming up for the NatWest International Island Games in Gibraltar where she will be the country's oldest player (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)
June Dill during her netball playing days with AICO