Last year’s Covid lockdowns delayed the Paralympics. And the delay gave these two Paralympians enough time to find love.
British Paralympians Lauren Rowles and Jude Hamer started chatting on Instagram after the Games were postponed in March 2020. They began dating shortly thereafter.
“We clicked really well,” Hamer told Sky Sports in December. “We’ve been inseparable really since the first day we met.”
Rowles, a parasport rower, and Hamer, a wheelchair basketball star, are an athletic super couple. The former won gold at Rio 2016 in the TA mixed double sculls, and Hamer has won bronze in five different Wheelchair basketball European Championships.
This year, Rowles will represent Great Britain in the PR2 Mixed Double Scull event, while Hamer, who’s set to compete in her third Paralympics, will play wheelchair basketball.
They’ve been training non-stop for Tokyo 2020, and getting to know each other. Rowles, who recently came out as gay, says they’ve received nothing but support from their Paralympic peers.
“People were grasping onto the fact that we were spending more time together. They’ve all been really supportive,” she said. “I‘ve only recently come out as being gay and that’s been really well received by my teammates.”
In addition to increasing visibility for LGBTQ athletes, Rowles and Hamer are both outspoken about their struggles with mental health. Both women went into deep depressions during and after Rio 2016.
“In Rio, I could have been anywhere else in the world,” Hamer said, via PressReader. I absolutely hated every minute of it.”
Though Rowles took home gold, she started to sink when the Games were over.
“I won the Paralympic Games and was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, but then completely crumbled and was suffering from depression afterwards,” she said in the same story.
Over time, Hamer and Rowles began to bounce back. It’s the nature of being a Paralympian.
Hamer endured more than 30 surgeries to try to correct one leg being shorter than the other before opting for an amputation at 16. Rowles has been in a wheelchair since she was 13, when she developed transverse myelitis, causing her to lose feeling below her chest.
The couple wants to be a source of inspiration for LGBTQ and disabled people, along with anybody else who may be struggling.
“It’s really important whether you have a disability or you’re gay or whatever it may be, for you to see that,” Rowles said to Sky Sports. “When I grew up, I didn’t know anyone with a disability.”
Out and visible, Rowles and Hamer are happy to be role models. They’ve stopped caring about what others think long ago.
“I don’t care,” Hamer said. “You can stare — I’m just out here and living my life.”
We’ll be rooting for Rowles and Hamer to experience their own triumphs in Tokyo. How sweet it would be to celebrate them together.