Commonwealth Games 2002
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Bowls Friday, 26 July, 2002, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Henry hunts more gold
Henry says the greens at the Commonwealth Games are not as good as they should be
Jeremy Henry won the world outdoor singles title in 2000

One UK bowler did manage to perform flag duties at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony on Thursday evening.

Unlike Scottish veteran Willie Wood, Northern Ireland's world singles champion Jeremy Henry was deemed suitable to lead his country into the Manchester stadium.

Wood, remarkably competing in his seventh Commonwealth Games, had been controversially viewed as too old for the task with his team-mates prefering the more athletic cyclist Craig MacLean.

The 64-year-old Scot was none too happy about the perceived snub - something he related to Henry in a conversion they had on Wednesday.

"I ran into him a couple of days ago and he wasn't particularly happy at all," says Henry.

"All the talk (in bowling circles) had been that he would be carrying the Scottish flag which would have been absolutely right after representing his country in seven Games and winning so many medals.

open quote
One of the proudest moments of my life
end quote
Jeremy Henry on carrying the NI flag

"How he didn't get to carry the flag, I just don't know," adds Henry with a non-plussed look.

The Northern Ireland man may be only 28 years old but his record at world level marked him out as an obvious candidate for the prestigious task.

Still when the call came on Thursday morning, it represented something of a shock.

"I was called to go down to the office of the team manager Billy Stewart.

"I didn't know what I'd done wrong when our bowls team manager Eddie McNally told us that I had to go to Billy Stewart's office.

"Eddie told me that he couldn't tell me any more but I did get an inkling then of what it might be about, when he added that it was nothing bad.

Hendry was surprised to be asked to lead out the NI team in the stadium
The NI team at the opening ceremony

"It was a tremendous honour and I was just dumbstruck when I was told.

"One of the proudest moments of my life leading out my country," adds Jeremy.

Henry has a couple of days to prepare himself for his singles challenge which begins on Tuesday.

After his victory in the world championships in South Africa two years ago, some are tipping him for another big title.

The Ballymoney man cautions that the different format from the Commonwealths in Kuala Lumpur, when he claimed bronze, could hinder his chances.

"Four years ago, we had two sections of 12 players so you had 11 games and I think the longer format probably suits my game better.

"Here it's four sections of six with five games so you have to start well.

"If I get off to a good start, I'll have a good chance".

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The greens are not as good as they could have been
end quote
Jeremy Henry

On the face of it, Henry has a decent draw with him facing opponents from Swaziland, Kenya and Malawi in his opening three games with Scotland's Darren Burnett among his later group rivals.

"They are all good players to get here but at the same time, I think the draw has worked out pretty well for me".

Henry agrees with Willie Wood's criticisms of the greens at Heaton Park although the Irishman is careful to praise the organisation at the bowling centre.

"The greens are not as good as they could have been.

"Bowling greens need to be down five or six years and these are only a year old.

Jeremy Henry is aged 28
Henry pictured at the opening ceremony
"Some of the guys here a month ago and the rinks were horrendous then. They have improved quite a bit since then".

However, they are clearly not the quality of the surfaces where Henry achieved his world gold medals in 1996 and two years ago.

"The rinks where I won the world pairs with Sammy Allen in Adelaide in 1996 and the singles in South African in 2000 were immaculate.

"I have produced my best on those quality overseas rinks".

Henry came back from Johnnesburg two years ago as world champion but he himself admits that he walks around Ballymoney with many people not knowing who he is.

"Bowls is not what you would call a high profile sport but I don't really mind," adds the unassuming Irishman.

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