Dowling likes championship chances

Robert Dowling trains for the 2018 Stihl Timbersports World Championship. PHOTO: STIHL
Robert Dowling trains for the 2018 Stihl Timbersports World Championship. PHOTO: STIHL
If you need a log cabin built then Robert Dowling is your guy.

He has a malevolent-looking saw and he can slice through your standard competition log in under 15 seconds.

You would be hard pressed to eat a yoghurt more quickly.

The 32-year-old pushes that macabre instrument backwards and forwards at a frenzied rate. And he will be hoping those impressive shoulders of his will carry him to victory at the Stihl Timbersports Championship at Mystery Creek in Hamilton today.

The Southlander will match his skills against New Zealand's very best.

Each competitor will compete in the stocksaw, underhand chop, standing block, single buck saw, springboard and the hotsaws.

Whoever accumulates the most points over the six-disciplines will take the title.

Dowling has a decent chance. He has proven to be a formidable opponent, having won the 2018 and 2019 single saw world champion title in Sydney, as well as the 2019 double saw and the Jack and Jill world championship title.

"I think I'll give it a good nudge," Dowling responded when asked about his prospects.

"It has been a turbulent time for me with shifting to Australia in the last couple of months, so I have not been able to do anywhere near the level of training I would like to have done."

He expects to do well in the single buck saw, the stocksaw and the hotsaw, while the chopping events will be more of a challenge.

Taranaki's Shane Jordan shapes as one of the main threats.

"There are plenty of other top competitors there but most of them have a weakness in one or two areas. Shane is strong in pretty much all the disciplines."

Dowling grew up in Tuatapere and followed father Kevin and brother Paul into the sport.

He has 24 years experience at hacking his way through wood.

He was a pretty handy rugby player as well. He played for Southland Boys' High School First XV in 2004 and 2005.

He was a prop, of course. The tighthead was selected in the New Zealand under-17 side and trialled for the New Zealand secondary school and national under-19 team. But a medical condition forced him out of the game.

"That put an end to my rugby aspirations, but I was just lucky I had my chopping to fall back on."

Timbersports has helped him see the world. He has a bachelor of science degree in land planning and development from the University of Otago. After he completed his studies, he travelled around North America and Australia competing on and off for about three years.

He returned to Invercargill where he managed a forestry logistics company for five years. But three weeks ago he packed up and moved to Mount Gambier in South Australia to take up a similar role.

He is office-bound and "a little bit softer than I was when I was growing up in Tuatapere".

"But I'm probably smarter, as well. I had to balance it out and use a bit more technique because I only got back into the sport two years ago following a bad injury."

Dowling was in Canada when he came unstuck. It seemed like a good idea at the time to challenge himself and enter a boom run event - that is the skilful race where burly, bearded lumberjacks in singlets race across logs.

"I was trying to get better at the event. But I probably shoudn't have worried about it too much because I ended up wrecking my ankle.

"I was out for about four years after that."

Since returning to the sport, Dowling has mostly focused on sawing events and it has paid off with some tremendous success.

Who else can cut through a 450mm log in 13.84sec? Dowling can and it is a world record.

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