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Lauren Rowles

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Lauren Rowles MBE is a two-time Paralympic Gold medallist, World and European Paralympic Rowing Champion as well as host of her own podcast, LGTQIA+ activist, and not to mention a ...

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Who are you and what is your background in sport?

I'm Lauren RAs. I'm two time Paralympic rowing champion, soon to be mom and L-G-B-T-Q. Activist for me. I've been doing sports since I can pretty much remember. I remember being able to run before I could walk, to be honest with you. And sport has always been a part of my life. I was the kid that took P class, like it was the Olympic Games and was pretty much like the only thing I ever wanted to do in life was becoming an Olympian. I've done a combination of sports over the years. Pretty much any sport you can think of I've done. And I ended up now going backwards quickly for a living now, rowing in a boat and becoming on to become that Paralympian and went two paralympic gold medals and become world and European champion across my career.

What's the biggest challenge you've experienced in sport?

The biggest challenge I think I've experienced in sport has been just being able to be authentically myself. I think it's so hard nowadays to feel as though you can have the confidence to go out there and be a hundred percent you, especially in a world of sport. When I was growing up as a young teenage athlete and as a young athlete in particular, you feel as though you have to conform to what everybody else wants you to be. There's this mould and there's this prototype of what athletes should be, and to be a successful athlete, you have to behave like this, speak like this, and be the best at what you do. And for me, I became such a diluted version of myself that when I got to the point of being so successful, I actually didn't feel like Lauren and off the water. I felt like the least version of myself possible. And in the later part of my career now and coming into the best years, I would say of my career, the reason why I'm doing so well on the water is because I've actually found who Lauren is off the water. And I think that that for me is the hardest challenge, is turning up on that start line and knowing that you're putting a hundred percent you out there in how you look, what you wear, how you talk. It's got to be absolutely authentically you. And for me, I know that's what the key to success has been for me. It's just making sure that in everything I do, it's just always me.

What is your disability?

I have a spinal cord injury caused through a condition called transverse myelitis, and that left me paralysed when I was just 13 years old. I went to bed one night, was completely able bodied, could walk. I went to school the day before and did very normal things, so normal that I can't even remember the day before. And then I went to bed on the 2nd of February, 2012, and I woke up and I just couldn't feel or move my legs on the waist down. And from that moment then was able to call myself disabled overnight, completely transformed my life and a condition that I'd never heard of, never knew of who goes to bed one night and wakes up the next morning and finds out that they're going to have permanent damage. And for me now, I get to live life very differently. I'm a full-time wheelchair user, and life for me looks very different, what I knew growing up, but I'm okay with that. And I think for me, I found real beauty in disability and accepting that. And some days it's difficult. Some days I wish I could have a break from it all, and I wish that I could just press the pause button and then just be able to walk around for a bit and do what I want to do and live life as an able-bodied person, but I wouldn't remove it. At the end of the day, it is completely transformed my life and actually has made me into such a better person. I grew up never knowing what disability was, or never having an appreciation just for how difficult life can be with a disability, but also just how much it can make you into a better person and then really see the world in a different light as well. I appreciate life so much more and differently now that I have a disability than I ever did before. So things happen for a reason I say.

Do people stare at you in your chair and how does that make you feel?

How did you feel when you first lost the use of your legs?