Jonathan has bowled his way to the top

Disabillty Bowls England Player of the Year Jonathan Stokes from Luton
Disabillty Bowls England Player of the Year Jonathan Stokes from Luton

He’s only been playing with Disability Bowls England (DBE) since New Year, but Lutonian Jonathan Stokes has already won the coveted Player of the Year crown.

And no-one was more surprised than the 36-year-old from Limbury.

Jonathan, who works as an online shopper for Sainsbury’s Bramingham, said: “I didn’t expect it at all. There are lots better players than me, with lots more experience.

“I do get nervous but I try to relax so it doesn’t affect my game.”
It’s a remarkable achievement for the man who was born with cerebral palsy and who’s already collected two bowling awards this year – runner-up in the national pairs and a regional challenge.

Now the former Lealands High pupil is hoping someone will step forward to sponsor him and the team.

He said: “When we go to competitions we have to pay for all our own travel and accommodation which can be expensive, particularly if they’re abroad.”

But on the plus side he’s made many new friends. “My group has multiplied,” he smiled. “Not just from club and county but also from DBE. I feel as if I’ve known them for years, we just clicked.

“We all play in different competitions and follow each other on Facebook to see how we’re doing.”

As a youngster, Jonathan was football mad. “I never gave bowls a thought,” he admitted. “It was just an old people’s game.

“I occasionally watched it on TV because Mum and Dad were interested, and we sometimes played on holiday.

“Then about five years ago I went to a club in Scarborough where there were nine, 10 and 11-year-olds playing and decided to give it a go. I took to it like a duck to water.”

He played with able-bodied people initially but was encouraged to join DBE by its chairman, Paul Brown, after meeting him on Facebook.

And he was picked for the national team almost straight away. He now has his sights set on the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and is hoping bowls will be included in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

A Hatters and Spurs fan, he claims his life consists of work and bowls

“But I love both and wouldn’t want it any other way,” he confessed.