Paul Bowler picks up the contraption in his yard – an open cube with aluminum arms that weighs about 10 pounds – places one of its corners on the palm of his hand and spins it all around like a top. He holds it up in the air, casually tossing and grabbing it – a captivating display of a skill few others would have thought of conceiving. But break it down and the scene is a pretty fair portrayal of Bowler’s life so far.
His agility and athleticism? It was Bowler’s youth as a world-class gymnast who represented Great Britain at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
The cube? This is the prop he used when he appeared, according to him, between 5,000 and 7,000 Cirque du Soleil performances around the world and in Las Vegas after retiring from gymnastics.
What about the sharp suit he’s wearing? Standard attire for a real estate agent, the profession Bowler pursued full-time after his sports and entertainment careers ended and has seen him go through hunting spells, lean spells and, now, spells. hunting again.
Bowler, 53, was born in Manchester, England, and was, he says, “a typical ass kid” who, by the age of 6, already loved to run, climb trees and do somersaults on the bed.
“Fortunately, this was funneled into gymnastics,” he says. “I’m just grateful to my parents and the school I attended for putting me in the right direction.”
It started when Bowler was around 8 years old and received a badge given to British schoolchildren who could demonstrate basic gymnastic movements (some of which, Bowler notes, were part of his Circus act). He started competing at age 10, showing early natural strength and determination.
“I wasn’t pretty,” Bowler says. “But you can’t teach determination.”
His first official competition was a floor and vault championship, and he won bronze. “I thought I did really well because I got a bronze medal,” he says. He only learned later that there were only two other competitors in his age class.
Bowler said that as an energetic, hyperactive kid he took up gymnastics because “you can never be bored. There is always something to learn. Then you have the excitement of accomplishment, and you can measure it. And it is the feeling of making movement.
He remembers how, at the age of 13, his trainer walked along a line of aspiring gymnasts, asking each one about their goal.
“The boys said club champion, Northwest champion, regional champion. Then that kid at the end said, “I want to go to the Olympics. That kid turned out to be me. At that age, it was the dream.
Dreams granted and shattered
In 1992, Bowler traveled to Barcelona, Spain, as a member of Britain’s men’s artistic gymnastics team. His most vivid memory is the opening ceremony and approaching the stadium as he heard the cheers of the crowd in front of him.
“They walk you outside the building and you hear (the country teams) being named, and you know that another half-revolution you will walk with the British flag,” he says. “It’s almost like a magical thing.”
He didn’t win a medal – there were “too many good Russians” and gymnasts from Eastern Europe and China, he says, some of whom later became colleagues at the Circus – but he did. won a team bronze medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. He was planning to represent Great Britain again at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, but a knee injury in 1995 and the lack of a basic movement at the Olympic trials, his first competition after rehab, resulted in put an end to that.
The movement was called “forward circle for pear tree on the horizontal bar,” he says. “I have done it a hundred times. But someone had a different plan somewhere on the line.
Bowler retired from gymnastics and tried to adjust to a life that didn’t include 35 hours of practice each week. He taught gymnastics and even auditioned for a Christmas pantomime as a pirate in “Peter Pan”. Then, through a friend, he learned that Cirque du Soleil was organizing auditions in London.
Join the circus
“It went really well,” he says of the audition. “I was confident I was going to get something.”
A few months later, the Circus called. In late 1996, Bowler came to Las Vegas and began learning the Aerial Cube, a demonstration solo act in “Mystere”. He first performed in Amsterdam in “Alegria”, which was on tour in Europe, then began to perform the number in “Mystere” at Treasure Island.
The act involved handling a cube while it was suspended 50 feet in the air. During a practice, Bowler dropped the cube three times, prompting his trainer to shout that no one in the audience is paying $ 100 to see “a weak, pathetic (expletive) gymnast on stage.”
As a circus artist, Bowler enjoyed a degree of fame and attention he never saw as an Olympic gymnast. As an Olympian, “I was famous in my little fishbowl,” he says, because gymnastics “didn’t have a lot of followers in my day”. But during a tour of Europe with “Alegria” in 1997 and 1998 and in “Mystere” at Treasure Island from 1999 to 2014, he met celebrities, played for the queen, saw his image on the billboards of the metro, has been interviewed for television shows and publications. , and was tasted and dined like never before.
It was not about him, he adds, but about Cirque du Soleil. Yet, Bowler says, the relatively low fame he enjoyed as a world-class gymnast was “amplified when I first met Cirque du Soleil. This is where you feel like a mini rock star.
Matt Nickel, Cirque’s vice president of operations, says “Bowler’s discipline as an elite athlete has always been a part of his work ethic at ‘Mystere’ as an aerial artist. Paul was the opening act of ‘Mystere’ for a long time. It was a pleasure to work with him. “
Real dreams (real estate)
Thanks in part to a shoulder injury, Bowler left Cirque du Soleil in 2014. But he had already started preparing for his third career in 2003 when he obtained his real estate license. Bowler – who still owns a property in England – says he has always loved real estate and that his first clients included several colleagues from the Circus.
Bowler estimates he closed 100 homes and earned $ 750,000 in commissions in 2004, his first year, which occurred during a roaring real estate market. “Ferraris has started to appear,” he jokes.
Then came the market collapse. “I lost everything” between 2009 and 2011, Bowler says. “It was very humbling, but I’m very grateful that it came as a lesson. I had two children at the time and I didn’t see many children. I was stressed. I had 24 mortgages (for 12 properties, including 11 investments).
“In 2010, I had to liquidate everything and I started all over again. So I self-taught twice. Now I have a few properties, but I don’t have the kids in private school.
Instead of an upscale gated community, he lives on a half-acre property ‘in the center of town, with squirrels and hummingbirds and 35 pine trees. I’m not behind a door and love it.
It also has a cabin on Mount Charleston and two sports cars. “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, but I like fast cars,” he says. “But I’m managing my life very differently now, and I’m grateful. “
Bowler doesn’t follow gymnastics very much, in part because it’s hard to find anything other than American gymnastics on American television and because he struggles to identify with the sport today.
“I am still interested in sport but very distant. It’s good, but I can’t relate to the sport now. The level they are at now is mind-boggling.
So does Bowler see himself as a former Olympic gymnast who sells real estate, or a real estate guy who played for Cirque du Soleil, or maybe just a guy with a really unusual CV? He passes all three.
“I’m just that cheeky little boy doing somersaults on the bed, basically,” Bowler says.