Meet the international chess grandmaster and the table tennis wizard playing lawn bowls at the Commonwealth Games.
Glasgow silver medallists Mark Noble and Barry Wynks are back to challenge for gold alongside Bruce Wakefield in the para triples on the Gold Coast.
In 2014 they had Lynda Bennett on their team, and in 2002 Wynks was part of the trio devastated when team-mate John Davies was sent home for inappropriately touching a Games volunteer.
That cost a chance of victory.
“It was a huge disappointment at the time,” Wynks says. “I felt like I had played this game for three years and … you can stick it.
“But I had so much support when I came back I thought, ‘Bugger this, I want to get stuck in and do something about it.'”
Aged 13, Noble was hit on a pedestrian crossing by a car. His shattered hip and pelvis required numerous reconstruction operations.
Wynks was born with a shortened right arm and right leg. He says that made life “one hell of a lot easier than having an accident”.
The way the pair riff off each other reminds you of Jim Henson’s Waldorf and Statler, but these blokes are anything but muppets. Their sports and games skills have been enhanced by a mental will for parity.
“We joke around a bit, but neither of us takes to heart what the other one says, it’s friendly banter,” Noble says.
How does the 55-year-old derive satisfaction from the sport? “It’s quite good when we’re playing able-bodied guys and bashing them over.
“We certainly milk it a bit. We don’t mind telling them: ‘If you can’t beat disabled guys, you shouldn’t be playing them’… As long as you know them [the opposition] well,” he says with a grin.
Wynks chimes in: “It’s probably hard for some guys to go home and tell their wives and kids they’ve been stitched up by people like us with missing bits and pieces. Some even had to do that after playing me at table tennis.”
That sport was the 65-year-old’s first specialty in a career encompassing cricket, rugby, golf, badminton, diving and water polo.
Wynks featured prominently at several national table tennis championships and it’s easy to imagine him applying a Forrest Gump-like determination to the craft. As one colleague noted, when Wynks was made a life member of Table Tennis Manawatu: “What we do know is that he has a very good left leg and an extremely good left arm.”
Noble turned his attentions to chess post-accident because there was “nothing else I could do” from a hospital bed.
The Anatoly Karpov fan would send letters overseas in correspondence chess and get replies months later with opponents’ moves. It’s a touch quicker in the internet age.
He applies his chess knowledge to the greens of the Broadbeach club.
“You’ve got to try to think more than one bowl ahead.”
Noble came through the Wellington system — and still plays there on occasion — but both are members of Palmerston North’s Takaro club. They share accommodation at the athletes’ village; Noble’s alleged snoring earns him a room to himself.
The fact they are staying in the village underlines the inclusive aspirations of the Commonwealth movement. But is genuine progress being made?
“Probably more people are getting involved in disabled sports,” Wynks says. “There are more opportunities and better acceptance. You’re treated like an equal, but 25 years ago that was different.”
“Sophie Pascoe carrying our flag sums it up for me,” Noble adds.
“That means we’re looking at the wider picture …
“Twenty to 30 years ago I don’t think that would’ve been an option.”