ROWER Lauren Rowles is heading to the Tokyo Paralympics and doesn’t want to just defend her title – she wants to do something people have never seen before.

The 23-year-old former Stourbridge student, who studied at King Edward VI College, stormed to gold in Rio with crewmate Laurence Whiteley in the trunk-arms mixed double sculls and the pair are now the reigning Paralympic, World and European champions in the event.

Rowles will not just be hoping to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997 and, after being officially selected for the Games, is hell bent on making history in Japan.

Rowles, from Cofton Hackett, Bromsgrove, said: “These Games are about putting in a performance that nobody's ever seen before. We've been building a legacy over the last five years now.

“Laurence and I are one of the longest standing partnerships in Paralympic rowing in and what we did in Rio was incredible, but now we want to go on and do better than that.

“We want to go out there and prove that we're not defined by our disabilities, and I guess in a way put out a performance that you would look at and go that's not a Paralympic boat.

“I think what we're trying to go out there and do is not only retain our Paralympic title, and try and win for a second time, but also to go out there and produce a performance that nobody's ever seen before in this field.”

Bromsgrove-born Rowles is one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme which allows her to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

And the 2019 world champion is acutely aware of just how important rowing was in helping her come to terms with her disability.

Rowles developed transverse myelitis when she was 13 and, in the last year, has become increasingly vocal about celebrating her disability and sexuality.

She revealed how supportive her teammates had been to her coming out and added: “My team were some of the first people I ever came out to as I knew that they would be so accepting.

“Don't get me wrong, it was scary. Having been on the team for so long and revealing this part of your personality that nobody knew was scary.

“I have such an incredible support network around me of people who will back me up if I get hate on social media. They will be there in the comments section backing me up!

“I think the biggest thing for me now is that I want to be there for the young kids that might be going through the same thing and worrying about coming out to their friends or to their family, or just being who they want to be authentically whoever they are.”

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. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo