_76322728_dsc02213Visually impaired lawn bowls player Rosa Crean wants a gold medal at her first Commonwealth Games.

The 72-year-old bowler survived the Greek Civil War and abduction as a child to win at the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996.

She has since claimed more than 40 medals and is looking to win the mixed pairs in Glasgow.

“[I want] gold for Wales,” said Crean, the oldest Welsh athlete to be selected for the Games.

“I’ve got a good partner [Gilbert Miles], a good coach, and the competition should be OK.

“We aim to win.”

Crean was born in Greece in 1942 with a genetic cataract condition which means she can only see a few metres in front of her.

Four years later, civil war ravaged the country and tore her family apart.

Her father, a policeman, was imprisoned in Albania, while Crean, her mother and brother were abducted by the Communist partisans and taken to Poland.

Crean was put in a separate orphanage to her brother, Vasili, and was not allowed to see her mother.

It was only when she was a teenager that she was allowed to return to Greece and familiarise herself with her family.

“Suddenly I see this old man coming along and he smiles,” Rosa recalls.

“He put his hands around me and I pushed him away… [but] that was my father. That’s how I met [him].”

“It was very strange… to start a new life. We were very poor… I had nothing, just the clothes I wore.”

In 1966, Crean moved to England and worked in a factory in Lincolnshire packaging fruit and vegetables.

But a few months later she was hit by a drink-driver and was in a coma for four weeks.

After recovering in hospital, she moved to Cardiff, started a family and opened a china shop.

But it was not until she was 50 that her daughter convinced her to try lawn bowls.

“I didn’t know what bowling was,” said Crean.

“There were old people, partially sighted [people]… I felt very at home.

“It was the first time I thought I was free to talk about [the disability] because I was one of them.

“I made loads of friends.”

Within four years, Crean was a Paralympic gold medallist and has since become one of Wales’ most decorated lawn bowls players.

Coach Ron Whitehead uses a clock system to tell Crean which direction to bowl and where her attempt finishes.

“Twelve o’clock is past the jack, six o’clock is in front of the jack,” said Whitehead.

“So if I say it’s four o’clock, it’s just short of the jack at an angle of about thirty degrees.

“As a student, she does listen and she does take it on board.

“Sometimes she does argue a bit but any partnership works like that.”

Wales have named 15 bowlers in their squad for Glasgow, including Robert Weale who is aiming for a seventh Commonwealth Games medal.

John Wilson, team manager for the visually impaired bowlers, says Crean and the rest of the squad can change misconceptions about the sport.

“Bowls isn’t a game for old people – it just happens to be a game that can be played by old people,” said Wilson.

“It can be played by youngsters, usually from the age of about eight or nine.

“Success in Glasgow will hopefully encourage people to come into the game, very much on a par with Andy Murray winning Wimbledon and everyone going out to buy a racket.”

But Crean thinks her first Commonwealth Games in Glasgow could also be her last.

“I’ve been bowling too long,” said the 72-year-old.

“We’ll see how I’m getting on with the team.

“Maybe I’ll have a little rest… until deciding if I continue.”

BBC Sport