Ellen Ryan has been making a name for herself in lawn bowls. At 26-years-old, she is getting ready for her biggest challenge yet – a World Bowls Championship.
It’s several months out from the World Outdoor Bowls Championships, and Ellen Ryan has just finished another session in the pool. It’s a weekly training ritual, which she admits helps with her mindfulness and her mental health.
The Goulburn local is amidst preparations for the upcoming championships, which will be held on the Gold Coast later this year in August. She spoke with The Inner Sanctum following her inaugural inclusion as in the national Jackaroos squad.
“I try to swim once a day. Normally, I swim about a [kilometre]. Then I try to go to the gym as well, [but] that’s just off green training. On green training, it all kinda changes because of what competitions we have on,” Ryan told The Inner Sanctum.
“It’s always hard finding out [whether you’ve been selected], but there’s no easy way I guess. It was great to see my name in the lineup [and I] can’t wait to represent Australia at my first World Bowls [Championship].”
For Ryan, her selection in the Australian Lawn Bowls Team was a long time in the making. The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist had previously made the national team in 2019 but as a result of coronavirus outbreaks at the time, the event had been called off.
The lawn bowler shares that she’s ‘stoked’ to be able to have the opportunity to represent the nation at the ‘next benchmark event’.
At just 26-years of age, the bowler has been making a name for herself in the sport that is often overlooked. Currently, the International Olympic Committee has not included lawn bowls in their games which Ryan acknowledged.
“[The World Bowls Championships are] definitely the pinnacle for our sport,” she explained.
“Obviously we’re not an Olympic sport yet, so I guess this is kind of like our Olympics.”
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Since making her Australian debut in 2017, she has collected a number of gold medals across several competitions, including in the Trans-Tasman tests and the Hong Kong International to name a few.
However, it was a dominant Commonwealth Games campaign in Birmingham last August that saw her make national headlines.
Ryan secured a first gold medal after defeating Britain’s Lucy Beere in the Women’s Singles Event (21-17).
She followed it up with a back-to-back win in the Women’s Pairs Event, where alongside teammate Kristina Krstic, the duo claimed victory against England’s Sophie Tolchard and Amy Pharaoh (19-18) in the nail-biting gold medal event.
It’s a career highlight for Ryan, who is fond of the memories of the Birmingham games. The Jackaroos team selection which also sees Western Australia’s Krstic also making her championship debut this year, will give another opportunity for the duo to reunite on the greens again.
For Ryan, the added bonus of competing with her best friend again in a World Bowls championship, will add to the experience when the event rolls around.
“Definitely [it’s] a dream come true to be representing together at a World Bowls Championship. Like it’s kind of unbelievable, we’ve always dreamt about it,” Ryan explained excitedly.
“Same with the Comm Games. Here we are. We get to try go back-to-back and make it a world pairs title, not just [a] Commonwealth [title].
“That would an awesome story to tell, I definitely want to be standing on that podium again, and I’ll be doing everything I can leading up to it.
“That means for me being in the pool, that helps with my mindfulness, my mental health. So being in the pool, being in the gym, making sure I’m rolling up when I can, being always in connection with our team.
“We’ve got a close bunch of girls and I can’t wait to represent with them.”
A self-proclaimed ‘little sport freak’, her sporting abilities go far beyond the greens. Ryan shared that she participated in all sports growing up, everything to softball, basketball and even dancing even though she said she was ‘not so coordinated’.
But it was a chance introduction to the sport from her uncle that soon ignited her passion for it, before her time playing alongside her mum saw her shift towards taking the sport more seriously.
“My uncle got [myself and mum] involved, and then I started playing with mum. That was really good. As a young kid going into a bowling club with grown adults, I had mum to fall back onto,” she shared.
“But I loved being able to meet new people. I started travelling which is really cool as a young kid. So that was sort of why I stuck with it.”
The resilience she had built up from playing in an environment often associated with older athletes would be vital for a major roadblock she would face in her sporting career.
Before her golden moment in Birmingham last year, Ryan was honest about the lead-up to that moment. She was disappointed to learn that she missed out on selection for the Gold Coast games, despite putting up strong performances.
“On the the Gold Coast greens I had a lot of success from 2015-17 leading up to the Commonwealth Games, and unfortunately I missed out on the selection,” She recalled.
“The group of girls that were in at that stage were really strong and definitely set a high benchmark. So I just missed out on that team.
“I guess for me that was a bit of a hard one to go through because I worked so hard and I was getting results but didn’t quite get there.
“I guess it was just to be able to refocus, reset and [it] motivated me to set new goals and challenge myself to play a bit better, get those bigger results. That was probably one event that happened which made me a better player.”
Amidst the golden moments of her professional sporting career, Ryan is also taking her many talents off the green. She has learnt to balance bowls with her personal life, which sees her serve the community as a firefighter and a learning support officer.
“I work at Goulburn High School [and] I work there Monday and Friday 8:30am to 3:30pm. Then I’m on call with Fire and Rescue [NSW] every hour basically outside of that,” she explained.
“I guess it’s tricky, because I am only on call, I’m able to manage it a little bit better. It’s more when I get a late night call, and then I have to get up and go to school the next day. That can be a challenge.
“The kids do know about it, when I’m a bit angry or grumpy but I do like routine. I am quite organised as with knowing what my day looks like but that can obviously change due to having calls and different hours.”
She reflected on her journey in the world of lawn bowls, Ryan acknowledged that as much as she’s grown since her debut in 2017, she’s trying to find ways to better herself both in terms as an athlete and her own personal development.
For Ryan, this includes being a beacon of light for the next generation and her work with the Black Dog Institute.
“When I first debuted, obviously I was quite a junior member. I guess I’m a little bit more senior now in the open squad,” she said.
“I’m just trying to set examples for the younger athletes coming up in the emerging squads and pathways.
“[I’m] just trying to set a good example and I’m trying to better my personal development. I’ve become an AIS mental health ambassador with the Black Dog Institute just so I can and better my speaking skills.
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