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We’re the real deal, says Dill

Strong mental game: Patrice Tucker, left, and June Dill will be looking to bowl their average game or higher at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru (Photograph by Stephen Wright)

Considering their medal-winning success on the world stage, June Dill believes it is about time Bermuda bowling enjoyed the same amount of attention as some of the island’s more popular sports.

Bowling has often flown under the radar, despite the national programme frequently punching above its weight by winning a raft of medals at top regional competitions over the past decade.

The team flourished at the NatWest International Island Games in Gibraltar this month, claiming silver in the men’s individual singles through Lamar Richardson, the mixed doubles thanks to David Maycock and Dill, and the men’s team, which included Richardson, Maycock, Blake Raynor and Damien Matthews.

They also captured bronze in the men’s masters after another strong display from Richardson, while Matthews and Maycock came third in men’s doubles.

Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, Dill, Flo Simons, Patrice Tucker and Jennifer Stovell achieved a third-place finish in the women’s team competition.

“Often people don’t look at bowling as a real sport, but it takes quite a lot of commitment and dedication,” Dill said.

“In order for these guys to be at the level they’re at, they have practised, practised, practised. We’ve certainly shown we can compete at the top levels.”

Dill will join Tucker, Matthews and Maycock in Bermuda’s team at the Pan American Games here, and is confident they can build on their encouraging displays in Gibraltar.

“We used the Island Games as a lead-in, so we’re tournament fresh for the Pan Ams,” said Dill, a former Bermuda netball captain who toured England in 1987 as part of the West Indies team.

“For the most part, I was happy with my performance in Gibraltar, although there were some disappointing games.

“The Pan Ams are the pinnacle for us and it’s going to be much stiffer competition than the Island Games. Countries like the United States, Mexico and Colombia have some awesome players.”

Dill comes from a sporting family, including brother Randy Horton, a former New York Cosmos footballer, sister Ellen-Kate Horton, a member of Bermuda’s “Big Blue Machine” softball team that won gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1978 in Medellin, Colombia, and niece Katura Horton-Perinchief, the first black woman to compete in diving at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.

However, Dill did not take up bowling until she was in her forties. It helped to fill the competitive void she was missing after retiring from netball.

“I didn’t bowl as a kid at all,” said Dill, who represented Bermuda in the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011.

“My friend was selected to play for Bermuda and didn’t feel as though she was up to the standard, as she had been an alternate. I told her it wasn’t her fault that others couldn’t go and she’d been bumped up and said I would go and support her.

“When I was there I thought, ‘I can do this’. I purchased some bowling shoes there and then. That was in 1989 and, before I knew it, I’d earned a spot on the national bowling team.”

Whereas Dill is a latecomer to the sport, team-mate Tucker began working on her perfect straight and hook shot at Warwick Lanes from the age of 8.

Her passion remains undiminished as she prepares to experience her second Pan Am Games, having debuted in Rio de Janeiro in 2007.

“I like how I improved throughout the Island Games and was able to tweak my game a little bit,” said Tucker, who will team up with Dill in the doubles tomorrow. “It built a lot of confidence.

“You have to bring your ‘A’ game to the Pan Ams and, at the very least, know how to recover [from bad games]. You want to bowl your average, if not higher.

“You can’t let yourself get intimated by the other bowlers. You get little butterflies, but it’s important to remind yourself that you’ve earned your spot.”