BROMSGROVE paralympian Lauren Rowles is on top of the world after she came away with a gold medal in her debut Paralympic Games in Rio.
Rowles, along with partner Laurence Whiteley, led from the start in the final of the mixed double sculls to take the top prize, which at the time, was Great Britain’s 17th gold medal of the Paralympics.
Before the final, the 18-year-old King Edward VI College student and Whiteley provided the highlight of the opening morning’s racing at the Paralympics regatta when they set a sizzling World Best Time as well as becoming one of three Team GB crews to reach Sunday’s finals.
The pair lit up the grey Brazilian skies and fired up the vocal GB support when they knocked more than two seconds off the World Best Time to win their heat in 3:54.70.
Debutants at this level, the trunk-arms mixed double scullers (TAMix2x) clearly converted their speed in training to an eye-catching race-day performance.
They then lived up to the promise they showed in winning their heat in a World Best Time to win gold in the final in 3:55.28.
Rowles said: “We beat the world record in the heat and we had confidence that we would do well but every crew out here is incredible so you know that you are not going to win it by miles.
“We have been putting in hours and hours and it’s so good. We know we have been quick in training and we are always quick in the rain, we’re used to it.”
In February 2012, Rowles lost the use of her legs when she was diagnosed with a rare paralysing condition.
However, she was determined to maintain an active lifestyle and started searching for a para-sport.
She decided to become a wheelchair track athlete and competed for England at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in the T53/54 1,500m.
She was also crowned England under-16s champion at 100m, 200m and 1,500m during 2014 and captained the Midlands at the UK School Games before turning to rowing.
The Marlow RC member then made her senior GB Rowing Team debut at the World Championships in Aiguebelette last year where she partnered Whiteley in the mixed trunk-arms double scull and won a silver medal.