It was never a guarantee that Lucas Protopapas would be able to walk. Being born diplegic cerebral palsy, his leg muscles were constricted. As he grew Lucas needed surgeries to stretch his muscles, restructure his feet and physical therapy to strengthen them.
An avid sports fan, and a proud Essendon supporter, he was always keen to get out and be active, When he was introduced to lawn bowls, he found a sport he could truly compete in.
Just nine-years-old when his grandparents, Marion and Reg Stacker introduced him to bowls at Heatherdale Bowls Club. Once he picked it up he never wanted to stop.
“I think the longest break I’ve taken was a week off, when we went to Fiji,”
“If I’m not bowling I’m working in the sport as well.”
Now 23-years-old Lucas has gathered enough accolades that would make any bowler proud. Winning Pairs Gold at the 2014 Cerebral Palsy Games has been a defining moment in his career so far. Paired with state bowler Josh Barry the duo travelled to London, with money they raised themselves to compete.
“To win the pairs is a dream come true,” Lucas says.
Upon his return to Australia he went on to win the Multibowl Singles Gold in 2015. While major championships have eluded him since, his work coaching bowls players both young and old keeps his passion alive.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a physical, intellectual or blindness disability, bowls is inclusive and it’s a sport for anyone,” he says.
Both Lucas and his mum, Carol have the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games in their sight, but she remains thankful for the immeasurable impact that bowls has had on her son’s life.
“He’s grown with bowls and the people have been the difference,” she says.
In his formative years the patience and willingness of members of the club to teach Lucas allowed him to develop his game.
“Every time he had an operation, his coach would help him adjust his shot,” Carol says.
“My Dad and I were determined he walk from there and he has blossomed in so many amazing ways I get tongued tied and emotional when thinking back,”
“The sport is for anyone and it’s given him a beautiful life.”
With their grandparents, parents and Lucas playing, perhaps the only people in the family who would rather see some time off the green is Lucas’s sisters.
“My sisters find it a bit of frustrating when we’re not doing family stuff since we’re on the green,” he says.
“Well as long as we’re picking up the prize money they can spend it.”
Originally published in BowlsPlus Magazine