Disability Bowls National Finals Preview – “Wow they’re Good!”

24th August, 2022

Bowls with a Disability – or as the Commonwealth Games terms it ‘Para Bowls’ – received a huge boost during Birmingham 2022.

And according to Chairperson Steve Watson a lot of the success achieved was down to thorough preparation over the previous two years and the way the Games structured its bowling competitions.

“The Commonwealth Games were a ten-day emotional rollercoaster and a tremendous success for us,” he said.

“It was fantastic to be part of it and to have the opportunity to showcase Bowling with a Disability on a world stage. When we came away from it with some medals and the whole team doing so well it was a pinnacle of two years’ hard work.

“We managed to achieve a great showcase – on the first day the team were very nervous but that was largely down to walking out to a cauldron of people and noise which hit home really hard – but the team then worked really hard to get two medals.

“All the people I spoke to during the Games and the general opinion since suggests that having able-bodied and para bowlers competing alongside each other really worked. Sitting in the stands one minute watching disabled, then able-bodied, then visually impaired then the top of the tree superstars was an amazing blend.

“Having five greens at Leamington allows us to do that really well and I said to the 2026 Games team that they now have a great opportunity to move this forward. Para bowls in Australia is massive and over they play late into the evenings so supporters are able to come and watch after work.”

Chris Turnbull and his assistance dog James won a bronze medal at Birmingham 22

Looking ahead, Steve said this momentum is set to continue over the coming weeks as the sport’s various categories take their place at the Bowls England National Finals.

“The National Finals are a completely different kettle of fish,” he said.

“Our big North versus South challenge including 50 bowlers takes place on Saturday 27th. We have a wide range of bowlers there in four categories – physical, learning, visual and deaf – and that is our big showcase when hopefully everyone present thinks: ‘Wow they’re good!’

“We have our National Singles, Pairs and Triples tournaments going on at the same time – this involves one physically disabled, one learning difficulty and one visually impaired playing together as a team.

“That is a real eye-opener for everyone as it shows just how well we work together across different disciplines – in the future we hope an able-bodied player will be the fourth team member.

“The big thing for us is being as inclusive as possible and getting the wider bowling community to understand that not all disabled people are in wheelchairs. Only a very small percentage of us actually are – the majority have a missing limb or something like cerebral palsy, learning difficulty, visual impairment or deafness.”

Reflecting on his never-to-be-forgotten Birmingham 2022 experience, Steve said the scale of the event and the opportunity to mingle with bowls elite will be abiding memories.

“It was very emotional to be on the podium watching the flags go up even if we were all struggling a bit for the words to Jerusalem,” he said.

“I sat there every day and watched our players and it was great to see them rise to the occasion but also to do it in front of huge crowds and sometimes also in front of supporting able-bodied team members which included bowlers who are currently the best of the best.

“They have been there, done it and got the T-shirt so to have them come across and give a bit of guidance or pass on some supporting words was superb.

“The scale of the event and the amount of support we had was incredible – and perhaps not always picked up by the camera work on TV which was understandably focused on what was happening on the greens.”

Tickets to the National Finals start at just £4 for adults and £1 for Under 21s offer a full day of top-class sporting action. Tickets increase to £5.50 adults and £1.50 Under 21s at weekends. Event passes are available and all tickets are cheaper in advance.

Please note: U16s must be accompanied by an adult. Under 3s enter free of charge.


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