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Dartford bowls star Michelle White's journey to England's Commonwealth Games squad leaves lasting impression on four-time Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox

It’s not every day a four-time Paralympic gold medallist says she’ll look out for your mum - but Michelle White is no ordinary matriarch.

The 47-year-old Dartford native only started playing bowls five years ago, but this summer will represent her country on England’s para bowls squad bound for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Dartford's Michelle White is in Commonwealth Games action this summer. Picture: Bowls England
Dartford's Michelle White is in Commonwealth Games action this summer. Picture: Bowls England

White’s daughter Charlie, 24, works at Nuffield Health and, when dual-sport star Kadeena Cox - a gold medallist at Rio 2016 in the T38 400m and a triple gold-medal winner in cycling at Tokyo 2020 - paid a visit, the personal trainer relayed her mum’s incredible story.

“When she heard I was doing the Games she was like, ‘wow, that’s so cool - I’ll have to look out for her’,” said White.

“The way she overcame her multiple sclerosis and just cracks on, I admire anyone who just brushes it off and says yeah, it’s an illness but I can still do anything anyone else does.

“I’m very much like that. It’s never slowed me down or stopped me doing anything. I think, in a way, it’s probably given me more drive and ambition just to sort of see how far I can take it.”

Mum-of-two White was born into a family of avid tenpin bowlers, even competing at a youth bowling club with her brother.

She drifted away from the sport after having Charlie and son Kieran, 20, only to give para bowls a relatively recent try.

“And it’s kind of brought out this inner person I didn’t know existed, really,” she marvelled.

“I just love competing. And what started off as a distraction to get me out all of a sudden landed me at the Commonwealth Games this year. So, crazy time.”

White, who will compete in women’s pairs with Surrey’s Gill Platt, plays and trains at Crayford's VCD Bowls Club as well as Swale Indoor Bowls Club.

One fateful day, she happened to find herself playing against English Indoor Bowling Association chairman Josh Pounds who told her she should consider going for the England squad.

“I said it’s something I’m probably going to do in a couple years’ time when I’m better,” White recalled. “And he looked at me and was like, ‘you’re good enough now’."

White began indoor bowling with her left outdoors and right indoors - her spina bifida means she often uses a stick in her right hand, so the left felt more natural.

But in November, White’s left arm was severely damaged after she fell down the stairs, severing her nerve as she cut her arm on a broken dish so badly that she lost movement in her fingers and couldn’t wash her hair.

Complex surgery followed. "[I had to have] tendons moved and a nerve taken from my thumb to supply my fingers," she said.

"I did a proper job on myself. It really hindered me. I had to stop playing for months. But then I went back and learned to play right-handed indoors and out.

“I wondered, God, if I get selected for Birmingham am I going to be able to manage?”

It will take, said White’s doctors, at least two years before her arm might feel back to something resembling normal - but she’s getting more comfortable bowling right-handed, and uses a crowdfunded wheelchair on the green.

And nothing will stop her from representing her country this summer.

"A medal would just be icing on the cake," she said. "Wouldn’t it just be the most amazing thing?

“It’s very difficult to try to keep level about it. Every now and again you just find yourself drifting into this world of, you know, how would I be if I won? And what would it mean afterwards?

“It’s not just that moment, but what it will mean for the future as well. It could be a really big, life-changing thing. I just want to make people proud.

“Because, don’t get me wrong, this has not been without hard work. There’s literally been in my case blood, sweat and tears. And just to round it off with that medal is just all going to be worth it.”

Kadeena Cox was on to something: watch out for Michelle White.

Find your nearest bowls club at www.bowlsbigweekend.com

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