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Bowler still living highs and lows of memorable Commonwealth Games

Craig Bowler attended Bowls' Big Weekend, which took place between 26-29 May, with clubs across the country holding open days to encourage new players to give the sport a go.

By Oli Dickson Jefford, Sportsbeat

Craig Bowler is still living the highs and lows of last summer’s Commonwealth Games.

Competing at the spiritual home of the sport in Leamington Spa, the aptly-named Wellingborough Bowling Club star and partner Kieran Rollings bagged a brilliant bronze medal in the men’s pairs B6-8 classification.

Bowler, 44, is a triple amputee after attempting to take his own life 15 years ago and spending nearly two months in a coma.

He lost both his legs and an arm before he was ‘nursed back to life’ by his physiotherapist’s assistant, Abby, with the two remarkably NOW married and having two children, Max and Tilly.

The Commonwealth Games was a summer like no other for Bowler, handing a taste of the tumultuous twists and turns that the very highest levels of sport can bring.

“The experience was mentally exhausting, the highs and the lows. We played absolutely brilliantly together, me and Kieran, and we only lost two games,” said Bowler, who was speaking ahead of Bowls’ Big Weekend on May 26-29.

“In the first match we lost to Scotland, so that was quite a disappointing start. Then we played Australia, and we beat them in the round robin, so we were quite confident. We kept winning and then we made the semi-final.

“They moved us onto a different green and the Australians found it a lot quicker than we did, so we lost the gold and silver place which was absolutely gutting - especially when you’ve got to go through the media tent and put on a brave face.

“I went away for most of the day, and I think I slept for 12 hours. I was absolutely mentally exhausted. Then we came back out and there was no chance we were going to lose that bronze medal, and it showed.

“We ended up winning 13-4 in the end. We won the bronze and were on such a high, but then the para girls lost the bronze, so you’re back down on that lowness again.

“It’s a strange experience, but I loved it.”

Bowls’ Big Weekend is taking place between 26-29 May, with clubs across the country holding open days to encourage new players to give the sport a go.

The event gives the bowls community the great opportunity to come together and celebrate the sport, with clubs across the country opening their doors for free to enable new participants to discover everything that is great about the game.

Competing at the Commonwealth Games gave Bowler a platform to share and open up about his incredible story.

A decade and a half later, and off the back of his bronze medal and the attention generated around his story last summer, he is determined to continue conversations about mental health, particularly in young men.

He added: “With depression, it can happen to absolutely anyone. It was out of the blue for me, I had a good career and a good life.

“I did what I did, and then I turned it around, and I was very lucky with the support of my family and my friends that stuck by me all the way. It goes to show that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything really.

“I want to make a big difference in helping young men open up and talk about their problems, and I do a lot of stuff related to mental health around schools, and going into business to talk about that.

“I was seen a lot in the media with everything I’d done and I’m always loud and proud - I’m a bit of a character, so I stood out a hell of a lot. It’s helped me no end. It’s got me into schools talking about mental health, it’s helped me as a person to open up a lot more as well.

“A lot of people appreciate that, they understand me as a lot of people have gone through that. For someone like myself, I think people will listen a lot more to someone that’s actually gone through it themselves.”

To find your nearest participating club and sign up for a free session go to bowlsbigweekend.com