South Tweed Sports bowls champion Kelvin Kerkow’s autobiography will be released next month.
South Tweed Sports bowls champion Kelvin Kerkow’s autobiography will be released next month. Blainey Woodham

Kerkow’s life on a roll

CHAMPION lawn bowler Kelvin Kerkow was confined to a wheelchair the first time he took to the green, according to his new book.

The South Tweed Sports member and Commonwealth Games gold medallist was crippled as a child by Guillain Barre syndrome.

Mr Kerkow, 40, will reveal the struggle he went though to walk again at age 11 in his upcoming autobiography, Rolled Gold.

The talented bowler yesterday told the Tweed Daily News he had contracted the rare life-threatening virus when he was seven, and spent close to a year in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane – the first three months in intensive care.

“One day I was fine besides sore calf muscles, by 4am the next day I couldn’t even move my toes,” Mr Kerkow said.

“I was rushed to hospital, and by lunch-time that day I was on life support, clinging to life.

“I had to learn how to walk again after being completely paralysed. The whole experience was like hell.”

While recovering from the debilitating illness, Mr Kerkow was taken to a lawn bowls game by his parents, who had recently taken up the sport.

“I was in a wheelchair when I had my first roll of the bowl,” he said.

To this day, Mr Kerkow bowls with the aid of a stick.

Mr Kerkow said the childhood illness had had lifelong ramifications.

“I developed foot drop in both feet, but had an operation to correct it in my right foot when I was 15,” he said.

“There was so much pain and agony over it I wouldn’t go back for the left foot, even though I could.”

Mr Kerkow is adamant he would not have taken up lawn bowling if it had not been for his illness.

“I was always a fast runner and wanted to play cricket or football, but I just couldn’t after the illness,” he said.

“Not many people know about this part of my life. I think it will be a shock to many.”

Mr Kerkow made headlines in 2006 when he not only won the Commonwealth Games men’s singles gold, but caused controversy when he ripped off his shirt in celebration. In his book, Mr Kerkow also tells what happened before the Games.

“We had spent almost every day for three months training for the Games, and with less than a week to go we were granted our request for a day off,” he said.

“The team went to lunch, but the boys stayed back late for drinks. The high-performance manager sent us a message at 7pm to come back to the village, but we did not return until 10pm. We were yelling at each other at the top of our lungs, and I told him I would take the matter above his head and walk from the Games if I didn’t get an apology by 9am.

“He apologised with two minutes to spare.”

Mr Kerkow went on to win gold, to add to his record including three World Indoor Pairs titles, three Welsh International Masters and three Golden Nuggets.

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