By David McPherson
Shirtless, draped in the Australian flag and with covering of green Zinc on his lips, Kelvin Kerkow was held aloft by teammates.
Fist-pumping and triumphant, Kerkow proceeded to start launching his belongings into the celebrating crowd.
He looked distinctly Australian, right down to the ‘AUS’ shaved proudly into the back of his head.
The Queenslander had just won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in men’s lawn bowls, and his post-game celebrations would ensure he wasn’t forgotten any time soon.
He highlights the notoriety the iconic moment brought a sport that often battles for mainstream attention.
“That just doesn’t happen in bowls, you know what I mean? It sort of put bowls on the map a little bit as well,” he says.
“I still use the photo on my Facebook every now and then and I get mega friend requests. It gives people a bit of a ‘yeah I remember that’ moment.”
Kerkow’s celebrations didn’t start and finish on the bowling green either. He spent the night partying it up with some unexpected company.
“The night that I won the gold medal I was out with the Australian boxing team. They said our boxing guys don’t do this sort of stuff – this is out there for bowls.”
“We went to St Kilda and they had the red carpet out and they just said you’re in with us. We want you a part of our team and our crew.”
The shirtless Kerkow had won himself some attention.
“Even the hockey boys were sat back at the village on the grass and I know they had a big screen at the village. A lot of the players were watching and when I got back to the village that night they said we should all rip our shirts off.”
He deserved all of the acclaim as well, having knocked off Welshman Robert Weale in a tense three-end tiebreaker.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. When it really got to the nitty-gritty, I knew the crowd was there but it was all on my side. I didn’t really feel that there was any pressure on me at all and I think that made the difference.”
It was those nerves of steel and the home crowd that got Kerkow over the line despite losing the first of three tie-breaker ends.
“You really rely on experience. People just get butterflies or get nervous if they haven’t been there and haven’t been in that situation before. It gets to them – you see it happen,” he said.
“It’s one of the advantages of playing in your home country – you get huge support. I think that’s worth a lot to a player or an individual or a team.”
“For a lawn bowls event it was probably the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of… I think it was around 1800 seats. It was a perfect night, sold out and 99 per cent of the people were on my side.”
The win was vindication of an all-or-nothing attitude heading into the tournament.
“The goal was to definitely medal, and the ultimate goal was to win gold. I was expecting worst-case bronze and I would have been disappointed to get bronze.”
The gold was even more remarkable considering the challenges he had already faced in his life.
“When I was eight years old I got a virus called Guillain-Barré syndrome. It was something that completely paralyzed me. I had three months in intensive care and eight months in hospital.”
“I was unable to walk for a couple years and pretty much put a bowl down from a wheelchair. I wasn’t able to play cricket or football or those contact sorts of sports.”
The condition meant Kerkow sent his bowls down with the use of a distinctive walking stick.
That Melbourne night in 2006 won the three-time indoor pairs world champion plenty of media attention.
His outpouring of emotion landed him at number 43 on an Australian magazine’s ranking of Aussie sporting wankers, just one spot behind notorious AFL party-boy Warrick Capper.
“I had a copy of the magazine somewhere but I lost it. My nickname now is actually 43 by quite a few people,” Kerkow says some eleven years later.
The 2014 Glasgow Games also provided the perfect platform for another Kerkow moment to go global.
The Queenslander sent social media into meltdown when the rain started to come down during a match between Scotland and England.
Rather than stand out in the rain, Kerkow was caught by television cameras climbing into a box to shield himself from the downpour.
“I do some silly things sometimes so it started raining and I was at the end of the green. Rather than get wet I jumped in this big black box. Next thing it was tweeted all over the bloody world.”
“It was something stupid and dumb and different and ended up in a bit of publicity in the end. It was just a fun thing I did.”
With a role as an Australian selector for GC2018 and a penchant for making a scene, watch out for Lawn Bowl’s human headline Kelvin Kerkow on the Gold Coast next year.