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Commonwealth Games medalist ‘gutted’ by missing world championships

Vaseline 2 months ago

  • By Harriet Heywood
  • BBC News, Buckinghamshire

Image source, Craig Bowler

Image caption, Craig Bowler’s life has changed for the better and he enjoys spending time with his wife Abby and their two children

A Commonwealth Games medalist has withdrawn from a world championship tournament due to a lack of funding.

Craig Bowler, from Buckinghamshire, represented England in para-bowling at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

He said playing at the International Bowls for the Disabled (IBD) World Championships would cost him around £3,000.

Disability Bowls England (DBE) said funding a team at next month’s tournament would make it “bankrupt”.

Mr Bowler, 45, from Olney, near Milton Keynes, was selected to play at the competition in South Africa between May 18 and 31.

He said he was “gutted” he couldn’t go, but he refused to pay even though he could use the money for his family.

“I’m a good bowler, and it’s frustrating because I know I could do well. We have to get the best out of it, not just people who can afford it,” he said.

“DBE is a charity and they can’t afford it. For some people, bowling is all they have and without DBE that support wouldn’t be there.”

Image source, Craig Bowler

Image caption, Craig Bowler said he was “gutted” he could not go to South Africa

Mr Bowler lost both his legs and an arm when he tried to commit suicide.

When he woke up from a coma, he said he was “just glad I didn’t die.”

He later married his physiotherapist’s assistant, with whom he now has two children.

“After my accident I was told it would take three and a half years to walk again. I did it in six weeks,” he said.

‘Change lives’

“I was determined. I knew it would be difficult, but I was given a second chance at life, so I turned every negative into a positive.”

A friend’s father invited him to a bocce club and after two hours he was hooked, despite initially thinking it was an “old man’s game”.

Image source, Craig Bowler

Image caption, Craig Bowler started playing bowling after losing his limbs

Eight years later, Mr Bowler won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Steve Watson, chairman of DBE, said the charity received no funding from the government or the sport’s governing body.

“All of our funding to help change the lives of people with disabilities comes from personal donations, grants from charitable foundations and the support of family, friends and fellow bowlers,” he said.

“Every penny raised has been used to change the lives of many with disabilities and enabled them to play bowling for the past 40 years.”

Image source, Steve Watson

Image caption, The Watford and District Bowling Association and Disability Bowls England teams pose for a match photo

He added that DBE had made the “very difficult decision” to continue running a program for the 2023/24 indoor season and outdoor season until the end of September 2024.

That meant it could not fund the DBE team going to the world championships “because this would have put us out of business”.

A team of 16 people and their managers self-funded the trip, which was later reduced to £2,500 per person due to a reduction in flight costs.