Australian Masters Games

Do something extraordinary: gold for South Australia’s blind bowlers

Dan Crouch - 7 October 2015

Do something extraordinary: gold for South Australia’s blind bowlers

"When you're faced with a tough decision in life, you have two choices, you can sit in the corner and mope about it, or you can stand on the two feet God gave you, move on, and do something extraordinary."

This is the uplifting attitude of visually impaired tenpin bowler Marie Ryan.

After being hit by a drunk driver 21 years ago, the 61-year-old from Woodcroft, South Australia, was left blind from severe damage to the brain.

Ryan is bowling in the 15th Australian Masters Games with 71-year-old Des Warner and 75-year-old John Beacham – all of whom are blind.

Beacham is, unfortunately, another victim to reckless driving. In 1969, the now Parkholme resident was hit by a car and has been blind ever since. He was also left without the use of one leg for more than a year.

As for Ferryden Park’s Warner, he believes he was simply drawn a harsh deck of cards by the universe, as one morning in 1996 he awoke blind after blood vessels in his eyes burst whilst he was sleeping.

Whilst they don’t bowl, there are two other highly valuable team members that make the machine click; Ryan’s husband David – who is the team’s driver and number one fan – and Ryan’s three year old guide dog Ebony, from Guide Dogs SA/NT.

The trio came together seven years ago when bowling recreationally at Noarlunga with the Royal Society for the Blind Bowling Club. They later moved to Marion where the three started competing as a team.

2015 will be the team’s first Australian Masters Games together, but when Ryan and Ebony were attacked by a German Shepherd in April, their hopes of competing looked likely to grind to a halt. Yet with so many challenges already overcome, it is no surprise that some months later, both Ryan, Ebony are here in Adelaide with their team.

All three team members originally had a B3 eye classification, which is described as having tunnel vision. Recently they have all dropped to a B2 classification, meaning they can only see shadows and have large areas of their vision totally blocked out. For some in this classification it means they have no peripheral vision, whilst for others it means they only have peripherals.

“It’s like holding a piece of paper against your face with two pinholes for eyes,” described Ryan.

She can where she is bowling from, but cannot see the pins, meaning she needs to bowl with a spotter. Her spotter can tell her what pins are remaining so she knows where to position herself.

Warner and Beacham, however, use a device called a vinocular – which they hold to one eye. It is similar to a pair of binoculars, and helps the pair see the scores and what pins they have left to knock over.

Whilst enjoying life as a team, the three bowlers also compete in singles and doubles. As the only visually impaired bowlers in this year’s Games, the trio are competing against themselves but hope to have a team travel from Victoria at the next edition in two years’ time.

“There is no such thing as can’t,” agreed Warner and Beacham.

The highest achievable score in a ten pin bowling is 300, and despite their impaired vision and Ryan’s broken hand, the inspirational trio were able to register scores of 110, 159 and 179 respectively.

Marie Ryan, Des Warner and John Beacham will be awarded their gold medals on Friday 9th October at AMF Bowling Woodville, 819 Port Road, Woodville.

Highlights and points of interest for Thursday 8 October:

•           Tory Toogood – 41 years old, cycling

9am – Time Trial @ Talunga Park, Melrose Street, Mount Pleasant

Tory Toogood was a member of the Australian rowing team from 1991-96, won a silver medal for women’s pair at the 1993 world championships and a bronze medal for women’s four at the 1994 world championships.

  • Nick Gill – 33 years old, athletics (cross country)

From 8am @ Victoria Park, Fullarton Road, Adelaide

Former Adelaide Crows star, Triple M broadcaster and beyondblue ambassador Nick Gill will be ready to go all terrain for the Australian Masters Games cross country, fresh off his recent performance at Adelaide Oval in the Slowdown.

  • Margaret Boylan – 57 years old, cycling

9am @ Adelaide Super-Drome, Main North Road, Gepps Cross

After suffering a serious traumatic brain injury from a cycling accident, Margaret returned to riding in 2012 and has slowly built up her skill and confidence again.

  • Nancy Caple – 61 years old, netball

12pm @ Netball SA Stadium, 155 Railway Terrace, Mile End South

Nancy has played netball for 32 years with her team competing in six Australian Master Game. They won bronze in the World Master Games in Melbourne.

  • FINAL DAY – cricket, indoor netball, petanque

Cricket @ Para Hills Cricket Club, Corner Nelson and Murrell Roads, Para Hills

Indoor Netball @ Action Indoor Sports Centre, 10 Clayson Rd, Salisbury East

Petanque @ Prospect Petanque Club, 14-32 Buchanan Street, Nailsworth

It’s the final day of competition in three sports, and you don’t want to miss out. Gold medals and bragging rights will be up for grabs, but participants will need to be at their very best to etch their name in Australian Masters Games history.

  • FIRST DAY – figure skating

Figure Skating @ Ice Arena, 23 James Congdon Drive, Thebarton

It’s the first day of competition in one sports. You want to be there from the beginning as Gold medals and bragging rights will be up for grabs, often from the first day of competition.

  • Australian Masters Games Karaoke Competition

7pm @ Airbnb Games Village, Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace

Having proven themselves out there across 49 sports, our Games participants will hit the stage for the most respected form of competition of all – karaoke. Live from 7pm at the Airbnb Games Village.


  • Figure Skating – Richard Lynch – 73 years old
    2pm @ Ice Arena, 23 James Congdon Drive, Thebarton
  • Golf – Peter Cox – 92 years old

From 9:00 am @ Flagstaff Hill Golf Club, Memford Way, Flagstaff Hill

The 15th Australian Masters Games are being held in Adelaide, October 3-10, featuring more than 10,000 participants from across Australia and around the world.

The Australian Masters Games is proudly sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia.

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