British trio aiming to defend Paralympics rowing titles in Tokyo

Reigning Paralympic rowing champions James Fox Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley have been named in Great Britain’s squad for Tokyo alongside five debutants.

Fox was part of the gold medal-winning crew which won the mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix 4+) at Rio 2016 and will race alongside Games newcomers Ellen Buttrick, Giedre Rakauskaite, Ollie Stanhope and Erin Kennedy (cox) in the same event this summer.

Rowles and Whiteley will bid to defend their mixed double sculls (PR2 Mix 2x) title, while European silver medallist Benjamin Pritchard, who will compete in the men’s single sculls (PR1 M1x), completes the eight-person line-up.

Fox and his current team head to Japan having won the world title in 2019, in addition to the 2021 European Championships in Varese, Italy.

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“Despite limited recent racing, we’ve built up strong momentum over the past few years and a record of results, most recently at the 2021 Europeans,” the 29-year-old said in a statement.

“I feel like we win because we train really hard, do a lot of things right and have an incredible crew bond and we can’t wait to try and keep that record intact in Tokyo.”

ParalympicsGB finished top of the rowing medals table at Rio 2016 after claiming three golds and a bronze.

Defending champions Rowles and Whiteley have had limited recent racing experience due to the coronavirus pandemic but claimed gold at the European Championships in April.

Rowles said: “The first Games (Rio) was about doing it for a seven-year-old me, whose childhood dream was to become a Paralympian.

“Now, going into my second Games, it’s about doing it for the next generation and building a legacy that will hopefully inspire other seven year-olds to take up sport.”

Welshman Pritchard made his international debut just two years ago after a cycling crash in September 2016 left him paralysed from the waist down.

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“If someone had told me five years ago that I’d be about to compete at the Paralympics for ParalympicsGB, I’d have said ‘no chance’. I didn’t even know what Paralympic rowing was,” said the 29-year-old.

“My accident happened in the middle of Rio 2016 so it’s quite special that five years on I’m now headed to Tokyo.”

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