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Stars aligning for Rowles and Stevenson on road to Paris Paralympics

Rowles is pinching herself reflecting on how far she and Gregg Stevenson have come in such a short space of time (BENEDICT TUFNELL)

By Jonny Bray, Sportsbeat

Paralympic legend Lauren Rowles and former Royal Marines commando Gregg Stevenson are no strangers to achieving the impossible.

However, even by their high standards, competing as a pair at the World Rowing Championships just 12 months after linking up for the first time is a remarkable feat.

Stevenson only made his international debut at the European Championships in May, but he could not have asked for a more experienced partner in the form of the two-time Paralympic gold medallist.

And Rowles admitted she still has to pinch herself when she sees how far they have come in such a short space of time.

"It is incredibly exciting, to think that a year ago, Gregg and I weren't even rowing together," said Rowles.

"Gregg was up in Manchester rowing in a single, trying to learn to row again.

"I called him up and asked if he fancied rowing in a boat with me and trying out in a double.

"The fact that we are prepping for our first World Championships together and trying to get that qualification spot, it is just really special.

"I am really proud of the work that we have put in up to this point to get to where we are.

"Our prep has been good, Gregg and I have had a great year, it has been phenomenal.

"I am going on nearly a decade in the sport, so sometimes beating personal bests and pushing yourself is more challenging.

"You are trying to get an extra inch just to get a personal best, but for me, I have had a phenomenal year, I've had huge PBs.

"I think that is partly down to the fact that Gregg has been here pushing me.

"I have wanted to raise my game and continue to push myself to match the standard that he is putting out."

Rowles won her first Paralympic gold in the TA mixed double sculls in Rio before claiming her second in the PR2 mixed double sculls in Tokyo five years later.

Stevenson, who stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2009, returned to rowing to compete alongside Rowles after trying the sport following the Invictus Games in 2012.

With quota spots for next summer’s Paralympic Games at stake in Belgrade, the World Rowing Championships are more important than ever.

And Rowles is targeting a top-six finish to secure a place in Paris.

"That first job is always qualification," she added.

"We have got to book our spot in Paris for next year, and for us, that means we need to finish in the top six.

"It is getting that final spot and that is the first job.

"I think for us, we have had a golden streak this year already, and we will look to continue that heading into the World Championships.

"We don't want to take a step backwards, we want to keep pushing forward."

British Rowing is searching for the next generation of GB Rowing Olympians & Paralympians - could that be you? The Olympic Pathway programme recruits and develops individuals with no prior rowing experience who have the potential to become Olympic rowers. Learn more at britishrowing.org/performance-development-academies. Similarly, visit our website to learn more about our successful Paralympic Programme and register for testing: https://www.britishrowing.org/gb-rowing-team/para/. The GB Rowing Team is supported by the National Lottery Sports Fund.