Commonwealth Games heartache for Wales’ Dylan Williams
Being chosen to play for your country in the Commonwealth Games is one of the highest accolades for any bowler.
But for Dylan Williams who hails from Llanelli in West Wales, his route to selection has been tinged with sadness and even more traumatically because he has recently had to make the awful decision to pull out of the Welsh para bowls squad for Birmingham 2022.
Fifty-nine-year-old Dylan has played bowls for more than 30 years. He has always been a member of Llanelli BC outdoor and Llanelli IBC and latterly the City and County of Swansea indoor club.
His name appears on many club and county trophies, with his claim to fame being winning the Welsh Indoor Bowling Association fours with Mark Howells, Robin Burden and Matthew Partridge in 2017 and representing Wales in the British Isles Championships in Paisley, Scotland, the following year.
Dylan has also represented Carmarthenshire at county level and had the honour of being county side captain.
Dylan admits he is a ‘social bowler’ and enjoyed playing rugby and cricket in his younger days too.
“He’s won loads of trophies for bowls,” his wife Tracey told Bowls International.
“Bowls was his life. He would play every night and all weekend if he had the chance. His favourite position was skip and he was club captain quite a few times. Dylan loved socialising with all his bowls friends.
“I’ve had a go myself, but it wasn’t for me!”
But 18 months ago, Dylan’s life changed dramatically.
He started slurring his words completely out of the blue and fell asleep at the wheel which resulted in going to hospital for tests.
Initially, doctors thought he had suffered a stroke, but further neurological tests resulted in Dylan being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a condition that affects the brain and nerves which causes weakness that gets worse over time.
After diagnosis, Dylan courageously started to battle his illness continuing to play bowls. He was invited to join the Welsh para bowls squad and donned the red shirt of Wales when he was chosen to play in test matches in Leamington Spa and Ayr last summer before being selected for this summer’s Commonwealth Games that starts in July.
However, within weeks of being chosen, Dylan’s condition deteriorated so much that he became so weak he had to make the devastating decision to pull out of the squad.
“MND has caught up with me,” he posted on his Facebook page.
“I’m giving up bowls,” he continued.
“I can’t play every day, I get tired; my legs and hands are getting weaker. I don’t want to let down Wales and the manager and coaches.”
Said Stephen Rees, Wales’ para bowls manager: “I was devastated to hear of Dylan’s decision to finish playing bowls, but fully understand his decision.
“He joined the group last summer and added a bit of class to our sessions.
“He teamed up with Chris Spriggs and reached the final of the Wales Disability Pairs Championship losing out to Julie Thomas and Paul Brown.
“Dylan represented Wales at Leamington and Ayr in July and September and was nominated for Commonwealth Games selection with Paul Brown before having to sadly pull out of an event he had looked forward to going to.”
Dylan now cannot speak and is unable to eat unassisted. He communicates via a whiteboard and has recently been given a wheelchair to aid his mobility.
The bowling fraternity, as well as Dylan and Tracey’s family and friends have rallied to support them and fundraising events have already raised thousands of pounds for MND and to help the couple purchase much-needed equipment for Dylan’s care.
A benefit bowls match, a comedian and auction night, plus a virtual Arabian derby night have all been held to raise funds, while Welsh international Hannah Williams donned her trainers and signed up to March’s Cardiff half marathon to raise funds for MND and Dylan, topping £2,000 at the time of press.
Dylan’s family have also been putting their best foot forward in aid of Dylan and MND. A group of cousins took part in the 26-mile Ultra Challenge London Winter Walk collecting almost £1,000.
“Dylan’s bowls friends are absolutely marvellous,” said Tracey.
“We are taking things day by day at the moment, but I am hoping we will be able to go to Leamington Spa for the Commonwealth Games so Dylan can support the Welsh team.”
[Words: Ceris Hewlings]
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