PAMELA RELPH has only been rowing for six years – it was her sister, Monica, who had reached international level in rowing, who encouraged her to give the sport a go. In fact, it was Monica who became Pamela’s biggest supporter and mentor and who encouraged her all the way to the GB Team and the Paralympics in 2012 and 2016.
In this exclusive interview Pamela talks to us about the feeling of winning Gold in both London and Rio as well as how rowing has taken her to other places around the world. Read on to find out where she gets her motivation from as well as how her training is going for her attempt at the London Marathon this year.
When did you start rowing and who inspired you to give the sport a go?
I started rowing in late 2010 after my sister Monica, who herself has rowed at an international level, suggested I give it a go.
Who were your mentors and those you looked up to most in the sport at the beginning?
Monica really acted as a mentor to me as she had already been training as a full-time athlete for a few years. She gave me advice on how to balance my lifestyle and training and helped me out massively during my first few years of rowing.
Tell us about some of your earliest successes in the sport and some of the places the rowing took you?
I was very lucky when I started rowing that I was coming into a successful team. The squad had recently won a silver medal at the World Championships and the squad was packed with a lot of talent. My first international competition was in Munich in Germany and I remember being so nervous. Since that first race, rowing has taken me around the world. I have competed all over europe as well as going further afield to palaces like South Korea and of course, Rio de Janeiro.
How did you progress to Team GB and what did it feel like to start representing your country?
I was first selected for Paralympics GB (the Paralympic equivalent to Team GB) in early 2012. I was still very new to the sport but had a magnificent crew around me that taught me so much and helped me become the athlete I was.
Tell us about your experience of the Paralympics in both 2012 and 2016 and how did they differ to you in their build-ups and what it felt like to be competing?
My crew and I won gold on Dorney Lake at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and winning in front of a home crowd was an amazing experience. Winning in Rio was a completely different experience. I was the only athlete who carried on rowing internationally after London 2012 and so there was a completely new crew in Rio. I was the ‘veteran’ of the team and went into Rio with a lot more experience and took on the leadership role in the group. Because we were not in front of a home crowd the pressure was off a little. It made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable as I could take a step back and take it all in. I have no memories of racing in London because we were in a pressure cooker and kept ourselves focused very inwardly. In Rio, I knew I wanted to remember it so I allowed myself to soak up the atmosphere and I am so thankful for that.
How did it feel when you won Gold and had you been confident of reaching such heights at both events?
In London, I didn’t know if we were winning or not till after we crossed the line. The competition was fierce and the pressure got to us a little bit so the racing felt very frantic. In Rio, I knew we were going to win so long as we didn’t mess up. So the racing felt calmer and more in control. The moment we transitioned into our mid race pace (about 300m into the race) I was sure we had it in the bag. It was a nice feeling to be racing and knowing we were going to win.
What are you currently training for and what exciting projects or competitions do you have coming up in 2017 and beyond?
I am taking some time away from rowing at the moment to take on new challenges, the most exciting of which is the 2017 Virgin London Marathon. I am a keen runner but have had to take some time out because of an injury so the next few months I will be building back up and taking on the massive 26.2 mile course in late April!