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Bowls - 14. January 2010.

Riding the crest of a wave

On face value, the sedate town of Lara and the hustle and bustle of Delhi appear polar opposites.

But if Sam Shannahan gets her way, there will soon be a link between the Geelong offshoot and the capital of India.


But if Sam Shannahan gets her way, there will soon be a link between the Geelong offshoot and the capital of India.


With next year’s Delhi Commonwealth Games less than 300 days away, Shannahan, who recently returned to Lara after spending the past six months in Sydney, remains hopeful of securing one of the six spots up for grabs in the Australian team that will travel to the sport’s pinnacle event.


Having made her debut for Australia at last year’s Asia Pacific Merdeka Indoor Championships, capturing a bronze in the mixed triples, Shannahan has already tasted international combat, but nothing can prepare her for Delhi.


With a population of more than 12 million, and with sights and sounds that have only ever blasted out of the TV in Lara, the challenges don’t just lie on the green, but off it as well.


Despite the magnitude of the occasion, Shannahan is taking everything in her stride.


“There are a few things that will be difficult in Delhi,” the 20-year-old conceded.


“The climate in regard to the humidity is nothing like Australia.


“Although I don't struggle with the heat, being Victorian and freezing all the time, I love to be warm, it's the uncomfortable feeling of being hot and sticky all the time with no shelter. 


“The language barrier will also be difficult. (But) representing Australia in the Commonwealth Games is the number one goal in my bowls career.


“Even thinking about it gives me a sense of excitement and determination.”


There is also a sense of symmetry about Shannahan’s journey.


Having spent most of her life in Lara, the young gun recently returned to Victoria after spending most of the past year at St Johns Park, the NSW powerhouse that boasts no less than four of her national teammates.


While the likes of Julie Keegan and Kelsey Cottrell have recently confirmed their move to St Johns to further enhance their claims for Delhi, Shannahan has travelled down a different path, but one that she ultimately hopes will lead her to the sub-continent.


Mixing her bowls career with university commitments, the occupational therapy student believes a well rounded life is the key to her on green success.


“Moving home from Sydney after six months was a tough decision,” Shannahan said.


“When weighing up my priorities, moving back was the best move I could make.


“Since I’ve been back home I've been less stressed and been able to relax and my bowls I believe has shown improvement.


“Growing up my dream was to go to university, I never knew exactly what I wanted to study but I knew I wanted the highest education I could get.”


A talented athlete in her own right, Shannahan tried her hand gymnastics, softball and netball before picking up her first bowl.


She was immediately hooked.


Shortly after she entered the Victorian under-18 singles and defied the odds to reach the semi-finals of the prestigious event.


From that moment on she was fast-tracked through a host of representative teams, including Victoria, before earning a call up to the national squad on the back of some impressive performances at consecutive Australian Opens.


“My progress and success was so unexpected, I never dreamed of representing Australia,” Shannahan said.


“At the start it was quite difficult to grasp, especially with the stigma associated with playing an 'old persons' sport, but I was confident enough in myself to not care what others thought.”


Having recently been named in the Australian under-25 side for a third successive occasion, Shannahan is well aware that she must make every post a winner, but confidence has never been a problem.


“I knew that if I applied myself and worked hard, it was only fair I that I would achieve,” she said.


“I also applied this to my studies.


“I was never one of those lucky people that were born smart and didn't need to try. I achieved top marks because I put in the hard yards.


“From now until the announcing of the team in July I will be working my hardest.


“A gold medal is the dream result.”


It will take a brave person to be against her.


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