IT MAY be his fifth year representing Great Britain in international para-rowing events but for Northallerton’s Laurence Whiteley, this month’s World Championships will feel just as special as his first.

Whiteley, who discovered rowing after recovering from Osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer, made his international debut in the mixed double scull at the 2015 World Championships alongside newcomer Lauren Rowles, the pair winning silver as they finished just half-a-second behind Australia in the final.

From international debutants to Rio 2016 gold medallists in under a year, Whiteley still cannot comprehend the journey the pair have been on and insists they will continue to relish every moment in Austria when the World Championships get underway on August 25.

“It’s like a second Christmas – the feeling never gets old,” said Whiteley.

“Outside of the Games, the World Championships is the major event that keeps us going each year.

“It’s always an honour to wear the kit, see the Union Jack on the blades and feel like what you’ve spent the last year working towards has all come together to one moment.

“You actually forget how big of a deal World Championships are until you get there. When it all sinks in, you realise how special it is.”

They only began training together in the summer of 2015 but Whiteley and Rowles quickly made history, becoming the first GB crew to qualify for Rio 2016 after winning their repechage.

The pair have come far in their short time together, setting a new World Best time in their heats in Rio before storming to victory in the final to be crowned Paralympic champions.

It’s been ups and downs since for the pair, Rowles going under the knife twice but with both now back fit, Whiteley says they will be in a stronger position than ever to win World Championship gold.

However, that Rio feeling is a sensation the pair will never forget – whatever happens in Austria, they want to secure their place for Tokyo.

“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,” added Whiteley.

“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.

“We just need to fight well, qualify our boat and know whatever happens, we deserve a medal.

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

Sainsbury’s is proud of its continued sponsorship of ParalympicsGB. We are the first Paralympic partner starting in 2012 – and committed to continue our support until 2020. Sainsbury’s want to take an active role in inspiring future generations.