Lauren Rowles looks back on her journey in Para-rowing

Lauren Rowles reflects on her journey to becoming Paralympic Champion at the Rio 2016 Games, just 18 months after her first time on the water

Throughout her younger years, Lauren “took PE like it was the Olympics” – attending running club three times a week, she dreamed of being a professional athlete. However, at the age of 13, a rare neurological disease left her with paralysis from the waist down and from that day, she knew she was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life: “I lost my way completely. I was never going to make it anywhere in life. My dream of being an Olympic champion was over.” But then she found sport.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games inspired Lauren to give wheelchair racing a go. She was England’s under-16 champion for the 100m, 200m and 1500m, resulting in her competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and being the youngest competitor in the team. However, Lauren said, “I realised at that point I wasn’t fulfilling my passion or my purpose in life” and so switched wheelchair racing for rowing after meeting the GB Para-rowing scouts at her old spinal centre, Stoke Mandeville. Six weeks later she found herself sitting in a boat in the Thames, and 18 months after that she was crowned Paralympic Champion at the Rio 2016 Games, with her partner Laurence Whiteley, in the Trunk-Arms Mixed Double Scull.

We are looking for new talented athletes to join our elite GB para-rowing team. To find out more about our athletes’ journeys into rowing and the ‘GB Para-Rowing – Not For Everyone’ campaign, head over to www.britishrowing.org/para.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of Lauren Rowles’ story where she discusses setbacks and what motivates her to stay focused.

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