TALENTED teenager Lauren Rowles enjoyed a GB Rowing Team debut beyond her wildest dreams as she won a medal at the World Championships and qualified her boat for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The 17-year-old from Bromsgrove partnered Laurence Whiteley to a stunning silver in the trunk-arms mixed double scull in Aiguebelette, France.
Her achievement comes just six months after taking up the sport following a chance meeting with GB Rowing Team staff at Stoke Mandeville Sports Centre.
Rowles and Whiteley have only been training together since June but secured the top-eight place they needed to qualify for Rio 2016 by winning their repechage.
The rookie pairing then got off to a flying start in the final and put up a real fight for gold, pushing Australia all the way before being edged into second place by just half-a-second.
Rowles said: “The dream outcome was for us to make the A final but for us to do this [win a medal], no words can explain it.
“We just kept pushing and pushing for that line and the outcome was immense.”
It was a memorable introduction to international rowing for Rowles, who lost the use of her legs in February 2012 when she was diagnosed with a rare paralysing condition that developed overnight.
However, she was determined to maintain an active lifestyle and, after leaving hospital in July of that year, started searching for a para-sport.
She became 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.
Rowles’ and Whiteley’s success was part of an impressive World Championships for the GB Rowing Team, who topped the medal table with 15 in total.
Sir David Tanner, performance director for the GB Rowing Team, added: “I am really pleased with our Championships performance.
“With our medals, our 12 Olympic slots and four Paralympic slots we can now look forward to stepping on next year to a top performance in Rio at both games.”