An Olympic flame hope burns bright

Blind bowler Scott Vallance is celebrating after regaining a national title, writes Alex Hurrell.

Vallance (pictured), 44, from Camping Field Lane, Stalham, bowled his way to victory in the pairs competition at the recent Visually Impaired Bowls England National Outdoor Championships, held in Worthing. He and his partner Patrick Lovell, from Bridgwater in Somerset, also took the trophy in 2007.

The triumph was among several highlights of a busy outdoor bowling season for Vallance, who is also delighted at being among those nominated to carry the Olympic torch for a short stretch of its route to the London games next year.

He has taken part in the Worthing event since 2004 and this year also saw him achieve his best-ever result in the singles contest when he reached the semi-finals.

Ironically he lost, by one point, to Patrisk Lovell – who went on to win the title.

“It’s been a good year for me. I’ve reached the semis of three major competitions since February, thanks to the effort my coach, Paul Segelo, and I put in,” said Vallance. “I’m hoping we can go one step further and win a main title.”

He is now preparing for next month’s Yarmouth Open bowls competition when he will once again play alongside sighted players.

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Acle bowler Segelo will tell him position and distances by assuming the jack is at the centre of a clock face, and with the help of a piece of string laid from ditch to ditch.

Four years ago Vallance became the first visually-impaired competitor to take part in the event.

He now regularly plays with sighted bowlers and captains four sighted league teams at his indoor club, Rossi’s, in North Walsham.

And when the outdoor season gets under way in September, he’ll again be playing with sighted north Norfolk clubs in Southrepps and Trunch.

“Everyone mucks in and makes me feel at home,” he said. “I don’t get treated any differently, and that’s how I like it.”

Vallance began bowling in 2002 and represented his country in the 2007 International Disabled Bowls Tournament, held in Australia.

He and his coach are now aiming at selection for the 2013 World Visually Impaired Bowls Championships which are due to be held in Worthing.

“I just seem to go from strength to strength. I’m winning games, and going in the right direction.”

He hopes to hear before Christmas whether he is among the 8,000 ‘Local Heroes’ selected to carry the Olympic flame next summer.

He was nominated by his sister Jody Vallance, from Ridgewell in Essex, because of the commitment he has shown to the Stalham-based Sight Club he founded more than 10 years ago with his wife, Sue.

The club, for people with a visual impairment, meets in the town’s Robert Smith Court on the third Monday of the month at 2pm. Over the years Vallance has helped keep it going and taken part in numerous fund-raising events for the cause.

He said: “Just to be nominated is a thrill and if I get to carry the torch, that would be fantastic.”