BOWLER Rob Weale admits he’s fighting to save his career on the world stage just four years after striking gold at the Commonwealth Games.
After struggling for form and fitness over the past 12 months, the reigning Commonwealth Games singles champion has slipped to 16th in the World Bowls Tour rankings.
Weale faces Scottish ninth seed Michael Stepney next Monday as he begin his assault to re-claim the World Indoor Bowls singles crown he won 14 years ago.
Hereford-based Weale suffered a disappointing first-round exit 12 months ago and a ruptured hamstring in November affected the Welsh international’s end to last year.
“If I don’t get enough ranking points from the upcoming tournaments then I’ll fall out of the top 16 which will mean I’ll no longer be seeded and it will pretty much force me into retirement at international level,” said Weale.
“But I’m not thinking about slowing down and retiring because the injury was a freak accident and apart from that I have been going strong and I’m still enjoying playing.”
Despite still suffering the effects of the injury sustained in a skittles accident, Weale heads into the World Indoor Bowls Championships in a determined mood.
He added: “Preparation for the tournament hasn’t been great as I had to pull out of the Scottish Masters because of the hamstring injury which has meant I’ve only played a few games recently.
“But I played well at the Champion of Champions tournament in November two months ago where I came third so I’m feeling reasonably confident," he said.
“Although I haven’t set any particular targets ahead of the tournament as I’m just focused on getting through my first-round singles match and trying to accumulate as many ranking points as I can.
“I haven’t played Stepney before in a singles match but he’s a good, strong international player who made the final of the World Pairs tournament in 2011, so it’s going to be a tough game.”
The 50-year old expects one player in particular to shine at Potters Leisure Resort.
He added: “I think you can’t look much further than Paul Foster for the title as he’s been in brilliant form this year so it was a huge shock when he was beaten in the Scottish Open Final last month.”
• The final week of this year’s World Indoor Bowls Championships singles competition is being shown live on BBC2.
Weale's long-awaited return to the rink has already brought him a measure of success at the World Indoor Championships.
The 50-year-old teamed up with Scottish partner Jonathan Ross, a former World Pairs runner-up, to battle through to the semi-final of the pairs' competition.
It was the first time that Weale had teamed up with Ross after a split with long-term Welsh team-mate Jason Greenslade.
“In bowls tournaments the highest seeds get to pick their partners in order and, as the lowest seed, I had no choice in the matter," said Weale.
“For whatever reason Jason decided to change partners."
Greenslade and his new partner John Price were beaten in the other semi-final by Alex Marshall and Paul Foster who will now face Ross and Weale's conquerors Greg Harlow and Nicky Brett in the final next Monday.