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With the introduction of Vision Impaired Mixed Pairs to the 2023 World Bowls Championships, New Zealand’s Kerrin Wheeler and Jayne Parsons have been selected to contest the event in August.

In a recent decision that will be a first-time addition to the event, Vision Impaired and Para bowls will now feature on the Gold Coast, in a move that reflects inclusivity and diversity within the sport globally.

Wheeler, and his father/director Colin, will join Parsons and her husband/director Brent, to combine as a B1/B3 pairing. Due to specific criteria, former Commonwealth Games representative Sue Curran was unable to compete with Wheeler, presenting a new opportunity for Parsons – now based in Perth, Australia.

To the more astute followers of sport, the name “Jayne Parsons”, may have already rung a bell – and for good reason. Parsons, formerly of Taranaki, was a bronze medalist in the vision impaired tandem cycling discipline at the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing, and during her cycling career, has won five gold medals at the Para Cycling Track World Championships.

Taking up bowls a decade or so ago, Parsons initially went along to a “Have a Go Day” in Waikanae, and since then, has never looked back. Having relocated to Perth, Parsons hasn’t been overly active on the New Zealand scene, but a mighty proud Kiwi, she is looking forward to representing her country in another sport, and will undoubtedly be determined to medal.

Wheeler, who recently took bronze at the International Blind Bowls Association World Championships (IBBA) in both the B3 Men’s Singles and B3 Mixed Pairs (with Curran), has been in consistently impressive form throughout the last few seasons – and is relishing the opportunity to show his wares on the world stage in the coming months.

Commenting on the selection, Bowls New Zealand Para High Performance Coach Kevin Smith said he was openly optimistic about Kerrin and Jayne’s medal hopes, pointing out both athletes will be doing everything they can to prepare for their chances.

“Para and vision impaired lawn bowls have been in the last three Commonwealth Games, led by World Bowls, but now it’s going to be in the World Bowls Championships and that’s dramatic . . . it’s an amazing opportunity.

“IBBA is virtually the Olympics for these bowlers, but now with it being present at the sport’s pinnacle event, perhaps that will change. There were many standout performances at IBBA earlier this year, and Kerrin was certainly right up there. In fact, it has to be said Kerrin was unfortunate during section play that he had to default a match due to illness, and had he played that match and won it, he would have collected the gold medal . . . that’s how close the competition was.”

Representing the North East Valley club in Dunedin, Wheeler has long been regarded as an accomplished and skilled player, who has enjoyed some well-documented success alongside Colin.

Through varying circumstances, neither Kerrin nor Jayne have met prior to their selection, but have since been introduced via Zoom and are already showing promising signs of success.

“It was a privilege to put these people in touch, and since they have never met, the mere introductions have already sparked close contact – they have connected like old mates, all four of them were beautifully engaged and both Mike Kernaghan and myself will be preparing both Kerrin, Jayne and their directors for this event,” Smith said.

“We’re going to be more than competitive, and I’m optimistic that these players will be real challengers looking to get onto the podium.”

The 2023 World Bowls Championships will be held between 29 August and 10 September.