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Interview


BEN HOPKIN


Bowls makes life smiles better!


BY DAVID RHYS JONES A


t 28, Ben Hopkin is one of the newest and youngest members of the British Wheelchair Bowls Association – and he


is certainly one of the most enthusiastic. David Rhys Jones, Co-Patron of the BWBA, took a trip to St Nicholas, near Fishguard, to meet him. “My smile is my mask!” It was a revealing


statement from this intelligent and lively young man, but sad, too – though, to be honest, it was not as sad as it sounds. True, Ben meant he was good at hiding some of the truth – and despair – of his situation. But it also showed the strength that Ben brings to his life. And, after all, as I observed, the smile he was


28 NationwideBowler


referring to was emphatically not a synthetic one, pasted on for my benefit. Indeed, Ben’s smile lights up a room as he


engages with people, and proves how positive and resilient he is, despite his debilitating condition, which his mum Rita spells out as “severe right-sided hemiplegic epilepsy”, a form of cerebral palsy. Ben, now 28, was starved of oxygen at birth, and the experts predicted he would never be able to walk. “I proved them wrong,” Ben said, flashing that smile. “At primary school, I was walking, no problem, and had lots of friends – it was a very happy time.”


The condition means Ben is subject to strokes,


seizures and the occasional grand mal, and his health and mobility deteriorated when he was at secondary school, where he was very unhappy. “I wasn’t known as Ben,” he explained. “Everyone called me spatso!” What kept him sane during this period was


his love of singing, and he got a lot of satisfaction from taking part in a series of musicals – Grease, Adrian Mole, Little Shop of Horrors, Bugsy Malone and Bad Day at Bullfrog Creek. After completing his A-levels and leaving


school, Ben was devastated when his voice gave out, and he was unable to sing any more.


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