Para-rowing duo Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley knit together like a carefully assembled jigsaw with one piece missing – gold at the World Championships.

The PR2 pair only began training together in the summer of 2015, yet two months later became the first British boat to qualify for the Rio Paralympics and took world silver home from France.

Rowles and Whiteley stormed to the top step on Paralympic debut, setting a world-best time in their heat, playing their part in an incredible day on the water that yielded three golds and a bronze.

Yet the lack of global gold still sticks in the craw, injury to Rowles denying them a tilt at the 2017 World Championships.

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I hadn’t taken a stroke before getting in the boat with Laurence

Lauren Rowles

Having stormed through their heat at this weekend’s worlds in Linz, Austria – fastest qualifier in the field by 13 seconds – optimism is high they can plug that gap.

“We’re yet to win a world title – even though we have won Paralympic gold in Rio – so it is a void we need to accomplish,” said Whiteley, 27.

“We lost by a fraction when we took silver on our World Championship debut, which, considering Lauren had only been rowing for about three months, was very impressive.

“We’re in a good place at the moment and have a fair shot at gold, but win or lose, this is just a stepping stone for next year.

“That said, it would be very nice to go into the final year of the Paralympic cycle as world champions.”

The British scullers pipped China at the Rio Paralympics by three seconds and with Liu Shuang still in their rival boat, they will pose a keen threat. France and Netherlands were other quick qualifiers.

Rowles and Whiteley clocked 8:13.860 in their heat

After a prodigious period of early success that also saw them scoop World Cup silver in 2017, a succession of injuries and surgeries have kept Rowles out of action for a succession of key regattas.

But with Yorkshireman Whiteley by her side, the 21-year-old believes anything is possible.

“Laurence is very special to me,” said the Bromsgrove-born star

“We work so well together. He was there from the start, he was my first rowing partner.

“Him and my other coach, Nick Baker, taught me everything.

“I hadn’t taken a stroke before getting in the boat with Laurence, so his patience and wisdom was what led us to getting a medal at our first major competition in 2015.

“His experience and his ability to keep cool at the Championships was what led us to that silver medal, and to go on the next year and for me to develop as an athlete that year and then input my own things that I had been learning, we built a special double.”

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