If you predicted that the best sports highlight of the year would take place at the World Indoor Bowls Championships in Great Yarmouth, England, please come and collect your prize. During Monday’s open pairs final, bowler Nick Brett threaded his ball through a ludicrously narrow gap, whereupon it nestled snugly alongside the “jack” (the target ball). You don’t have to know much about indoor bowls (or outdoor bowls, for that matter) to understand that Brett’s shot took an absurd amount of skill. Video of his roll has gone viral, and you may have even seen it on SportsCenter.
Brett is playing out of his mind at the World Indoor Bowls Championships. He’s already won both the open and mixed pairs tournaments and is in contention for the men’s open singles title. I talked to him by phone on Friday, shortly after he won his singles quarterfinal. In our conversation, which has been edited, we discussed the mechanics behind his headline-making bowl and why he didn’t celebrate his amazing shot.
Nick Greene: So, the incredible shot that everyone’s talking about—at what point of the open pairs final was that?
Nick Brett: It was the seventh end of the first set.
Did you win that set?
Yes, we did.
So that was a pretty big moment in the final.
Yeah. It was pretty close at the time, and if they’d have won that end I think it might have pulled them level. [Note: Brett and his partner won the first set, lost the second, and clinched the title in the third.]
Before you take the shot your teammate, Greg Harlow, announces what you are going to do. Forgive my ignorance, but is this common? Is it required?
It’s not required, no. But once you’ve left the head [the mat] and you’ve had a bowl, you do it if something changes, which it had because [my opponent] Alex [Marshall] had put a ball closer for me to get ’round. He had made it harder for me, so my partner was just telling me what he thought the best shot was to play.
He was giving you instructions?
That’s right, yeah.
Did you think it was ridiculous when you heard it?
It wasn’t the easiest shot in the world. But if you imagine that the other balls are not there, you’re still just trying to draw to the jack. Normally you don’t get straight through the gap without touching anything. He told me what I was playing and the crowd and I had a little chuckle about it. I’m thinking, “Oof, not easy but I’ll give it a go.” It came out all right, and obviously the end result was pretty good.
Were you confident when you took it?
I don’t know. I suppose most players in the top 16 would have a go at it. How many times they would get it right? I don’t know. It’s one of them that was perfect. You probably get it in [close to the jack] two or three different ways; if I got an edge off the ball or got the ball solid and sat in. There was probably more than one way to get it, but as luck would have it I missed all the balls and it just sat in perfectly.
Was it the best shot you’ve ever taken?
It was certainly up there with one of the best ones I’ve played, what with all of it—the instructions, the crowd having a giggle, and the TV cameras watching. It will certainly be the most famous shot I will ever play.
This is probably a stupid question, but how did you do it? Did you put spin on it when it came out your hand?
No. On the running surface the balls have like a bevel to them so they will turn one way. We only have to master the weight, really, how far we need for them to roll. They have a bend on them. You just put them on the line you want to play, and if you have the right pace it will bend as it would normally.
You don’t celebrate much. Is that just your style, or are there rules against celebrations?
I’m not a big celebrator, but also we were in the middle of a game. I try not to [celebrate] because of the emotion and the adrenaline. If you go up too much, the next bowl is quite quick. For me, too much adrenaline means too much strength in my arm and so the next one could have been three or four yards away. I try not to get too low or too high.
The video has gone viral here in America, which is pretty wild because bowls isn’t really a big sport here.
Yes, definitely. I should note that we do have some American and Canadian qualifiers come over, so it is played out there. But obviously they would say it’s not as big as most of your other sports are.
If it gains in popularity in America, I think you will have to get some credit.