LAUREN Rowles – the 16-year-old wheelchair racer from Cofton Hackett – had a sensational race in the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday to make it through to the final of the T54 1,500m in front of a packed Hampden Park stadium which included friends and family.
Lauren, who was appearing in her first major games, is the youngest athlete representing Team England and came fifth in her race – doing just enough to qualify for yesterday evening’s (Thursday) ten-woman final.
Last week the Standard reported how reaching the Commonwealth Games had been the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year journey for Lauren – who fell ill in February 2012 with a spinal inflammation – which rendered her wheelchair-bound.
Since then Lauren, inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics, took to wheelchair racing and is now living the dream in Glasgow.
“It was absolutely fantastic – that was her goal to get into the final,” said her mum Natalie, speaking on Tuesday afternoon.
“I am just immensely proud of her. I was screaming. She is only 16 and has just left school and is in the Commonwealth Games.”
Natalie said more than a dozen friends and family had travelled up to Scotland including her nan and granddad, aunties, uncles and cousins and they all donned specially made T-shirts and hoodies with Lauren’s name on to show their support.
“When I spoke to her afterwards she said she was in some pain and couldn’t push too much towards the end of the race and wanted to save herself for the final,” said Natalie.
“She kept up with the main group of girls in the race up until the end but just couldn’t keep with them in the final few hundred metres.
“She was just so happy to be there and achieve a place in the final. However, because she is so competitive, she will try and get as good a finish as she can in the final.”
In the final Lauren joined her more experienced team-mates Jade Jones and Shelly Woods, who finished third and fifth respectively in their heats and who were competing for medals.
“She was really happy that her Team England team-mates got through and also that the Scottish girls who she has trained with had also qualified,” said Natalie.
“We met up with her in the clubhouse in the athletes village and she is absolutely loving the experience. We will not see her now until after the final.
“It’s definitely a stepping stone in her career and the experience has inspired her. She now understands more about preparations for these big events which has given her that push.”
Also at the games are two community physios from Crabbs Cross Surgery who are part of the team that has been working with her since she fell ill.
“If it wasn’t for them she wouldn’t be here now as she has improved so much since leaving hospital,” said Natalie.
Lauren’s final took place at 7.20pm last night, after the Standard had gone to press.