By Tom Harle, Sportsbeat
A new partnership is propelling Lauren Rowles in her pursuit of Paris 2024 and a place in the Paralympic pantheon.
The Bromsgrove rower is zeroing in on securing her legacy and making a slice of sporting history at next summer’s Games.
Rowles wants a third successive Paralympic gold medal and would be the first British rower to reach that landmark.
Having won gold at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, she could be the first in the world to secure a para-rowing three-peat although Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi is aiming to do the same.
“I want to leave a mark on this sport and that is to do something that’s never been done before,” said Rowles.
“I’ve been very upfront in saying that and I’ve never really expressed that so early in a Paralympic cycle.
“We had a lot of highs and lows going into Tokyo, a lot of injuries and Covid, and I didn’t even know I’d make it. I will know my purpose in Paris.”
Rowles has been a central part of the world-beating GB Para-Rowing Team, who have won 50% of the gold medals awarded in Paralympic rowing since its introduction in 2008.
A big part of the 25-year-old’s mission is securing that success for Games to come.
“I’ve had the privilege of growing up in this team and contributing to its legacy,” she said. “We push our boundaries every single year.
“I want to continue that legacy so someone comes and we pass those blades on to the next generation.
“I want to inspire people to take that seat off me one day and send me into retirement.”
Rowles won back-to-back Paralympic golds with Laurence Whiteley at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
Whiteley retired after Tokyo, leaving Rowles racing a single scull last season and looking for a new partner.
Enter Gregg Stevenson, a former Green Beret Army Commando who lost both of his legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009.
Rowles said: “There’s always some level of apprehension when you start racing with somebody new and a process of learning what makes them tick.
“It’s been a really fun time with Gregg, he just brings such energy and there’s a level of resilience in him that I’ve never encountered in anyone else.
“He turns up to every session motivated and willing to learn in a way I’ve never seen in anyone I’ve trained with on this team and it motivates me to be better.
“You know you’re rowing with somebody good when they motivate you, nine years in yoru career, to continue to be better and find the gaps that we’re missing.
“I’ve got no questions about his ability to make the boat go faster than ever before.”
The road to Paris 2024 for the pair begins at the European Championships, staged at Slovenia’s Lake Bled from May 25-28.
“Gregg might not be able to technically row as well as I do,” said Rowles. “But he brings that extra bit of mindset and he’s brought back the fun into the boat. I’m really looking forward to going out there racing."
British Rowing is the governing body for the sport and is responsible for the development of rowing in England and the training and selection of rowers to represent Great Britain. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund. To find out more, and to follow the team, head to https://www.britishrowing.org/