FRANCIS Bush was a late-comer to tenpin bowling but he has struck gold in the sport.
Francis took out a gold medal and a bronze medal at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific games in Newcastle.
Fellow Bendigo athlete Sally Brockley-Moon claimed two bronze medals.
The pair – who both took up bowling eight years ago – said the event was the highlight of their sporting careers.
“It was the best,” Francis said.
“I always bowled so I could bowl for Australia. It was a dream come true.”
With his family watching on as he collected his medals he said it was an emotional victory.
“I cried. Big time. Mum was crying and my sister was crying, and my brother was crying. They cried more than me.”
Francis said the pairs event was the best he has ever bowled.
He dedicated the win to his sister Jo’s pug dog Queenie who died shortly before the games.
“I did it for Queenie,” he said. “I did it for my family as well. I love them a lot.”
Sally said it has always been her aim to bowl at an international tournament. She said winning two medals was a bonus.
“I didn’t expect it at all, I was hoping to bowl well but I had a problem with my back so I didn’t really know how I would go,” she said.
She said she wasn’t sure what could top bowling in front of hundreds of supporters but said her next goal was to bowl overseas.
The pair said they were taking a quick break before getting into more training for the next tournament.
The Newcastle games was the first time they had bowled in an international event.
Sally said they both made a lot of friends from other countries and took away a lot of mementos.
Francis' mother Chris Bush said she had never been more proud of the athletes.
She said they have both been dedicated to the sport and trained really hard, despite the fact the Bendigo Special Olympics bowlers have not had a coach for three years.
"They both just really enjoy it," she said.
"It's a great reward for their commitment.
"It was fantastic to see them bowling so well. They were in the zone.
"The games themselves were excellent, everyone in Newcastle got behind it. It really raised the profile of the games and people with disabilities. That's certainly a very good thing."