Cofton Hackett’s Lauren Rowles hails telepathic rowing connection at Tokyo 2020

Cofton Hackett’s Lauren Rowles paid tribute to teammate Laurence Whiteley for sticking by her after they surged to a second Paralympics gold medal.

The pair dominated their PR2 mixed double sculls final to successfully defend their Rio gold medal, and shed tears as they crossed the line.

On the surface, it’s an unremarkable and increasingly familiar story here for ParalympicsGB – just dominant champions remaining dominant champions – but peel back the layers of injury and mental health and this might just be one of Britain’s more emotional golds of these Games.

Rowles openly admits there were times when she didn’t want to be on this planet anymore. In 2017, once the glow of Rio had dulled and the expectation remained, she suffered depression, dropped out of university and barely left the house.

There were a number of contributing factors, the pressure to succeed in the wake of a Paralympic gold she won at just 18, the trauma of her disability – she was left paralysed from the waist down at 13 – and suppressing her sexuality.

To go alongside it, a slipped disc in her back at the 2017 World Championships was among a number of injuries to rule her out for more than a year.

Rowles, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding, said: “This man’s been here by my side throughout all of it, my family have, and to be the happiest person I’ve ever been across that line, I don’t think this performance would ever have happened if I’d just kept pushing through, kept battering myself and not overcome the anxiety.

“We took some time away, Laurence has had his own mental health issues. He took some time away from the sport. No matter what, we’ve stuck by each other and said, ‘If you need time to go away and do what you need to do, we’ve sat by each other throughout it.

“I’m grateful to this guy for doing that and letting me do that, and just to be here today, being the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, next to this guy, is a real honour at times. I didn’t think we could do it, we’ve just somehow, every single day, step by step, we’ve just shoved forward and done it.”

There was also success for Worcester’s Giedre Rakauskaite, as she and her teammates waltzed to the mixed coxed four title.

They crossed the 11 seconds clear of their rivals to preserve an 11-year unbeaten record for Great Britain’s flagship boat.

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen

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