World champion rower Pam Relph has issued a rallying cry to the public of Buckinghamshire: ‘Support the worldwide event being held on your doorstep.‘
Pam says people should try to get involved as much as they possibly can in the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium on Friday 2nd September 2016.
The 26 year old, who won Paralympic Gold in 2012 and is also a reigning world champion, spoke out to encourage the Bucks public after being selected to represent Great Britain in the Rio Paralympic Games.
She said: ‘I am massively proud of the fact I come from here, and I brag to everyone that I come from Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics.
The flame lighting probably means more to me than others – having a place in the world that symbolises Paralympic sport is really powerful.
I would encourage people to get involved in this worldwide event happening on your doorstep. Go down and learn about the heritage flame and Paralympic movement.‘
The flame lighting ceremony is part of the lead-up to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Stoke Mandeville, as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, is the only venue outside the host nation of Brazil to play a role in creating the Paralympic Flame. The Heritage Flame will combine with others travelling to Rio from across Brazil to ignite the flame which marks the start of the Paralympic Games. This tradition began two years ago before the Sochi Winter Games.
Pam will not be at Stoke Mandeville on Saturday 2nd September, because she will be competing for the GB rowing team in the Legs, Trunk and Arms mixed coxed four.
But her earnest wish is that the flame ceremony will help put Stoke Mandeville on the map as a place where people visit to see where the Paralympics started.
‘A lot of my family who live around here won’t be able to travel out to Brazil and the flame lighting will be an opportunity for them to get involved in something I am involved in. It’s a mini opening ceremony before the opening ceremony,‘ she said.
Pam, whose family home is in Weston Turville, attended Aston Clinton Primary and John Colet schools. She suffers from psoriatic arthritis, a degenerative condition severely affecting her right arm and wrist that made her give up a promising army career aged 20.
She only rowed competitively for the first time in 2010 after being prompted to do so by her sister Monica, also a top rower – and was crowned world champion less than a year later.
She is currently reigning Paralympic and World Champion in the Legs, Trunk and arms mixed cox four and was awarded an MBE, but was thrilled to be chosen again to represent GB at Rio.
‘I am delighted to be selected for my second Paralympic Games. It is nice to know the hard work has all paid off,‘ she said.
Pam will be in action in the adaptive mixed coxed four with Grace Clough, Daniel Brown, James Fox and cox Oliver James. She is the only member of the crew who won gold in the event at London 2012.
She admits she initially found it difficult to accept being a Paralympic athlete after her career in the Army. But her life is now dedicated to being an elite sportsperson, and she trains for between five to six hours a day.
‘A lot of people when they think of disability think you have to be missing a limb or in a wheelchair but a lot of people are like me with an invisible disability, it took me a good year to come to terms with trying to compete as a disabled person.
I didn’t want to allow my condition to beat me, but it wasn’t long before I realised that going to the Paralympics isn’t second best. Going to the Paralympics was proving to myself that I was the super tough person I thought I was.‘ she said.
Further information on the Heritage Flame Lighting event can be found at www.buckslegacy.org.uk.