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Exclusive: Pam Relph on winning an MBE and the 'pressure' ahead of the Paralympics

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There's no doubt that Pam Relph is a force to be reckoned with. Taking up rowing in 2010 after her army career plans were halted by her chronic arthritis, just two years later she was taking home the gold medal at the 2012 Paralympics. Since then, she and her crew remain undefeated in the international world championships, and she's even been awarded an MBE.

This summer, she is set to take on the Paralympics once again, this time with a few more years of training under her belt – and the British beauty has admitted that the pressure is on.

pam relph© Photo: Getty Images

Pam Relph will be competing at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro

"In London I was obviously really new, and I very much saw myself as the novice in the boat, that I had a lot of experience around me," she told HELLO! Online exclusively, as she joins Sainsburys' Supercharge campaign to encourage the British public to show their support. "I guess the pressure wasn't really that much on my shoulders, but this time around I think I'm putting a bit more pressure on myself to lead the crew a little bit because I'm the one with the experience."

With her ever-growing success, Pam admitted she feels like a "target" in this year's competition. "I think that the pressure is definitely there, but the pressure has been there all year – we've got a great big target on our backs because we're the undefeated crew," she explained. "We've basically not lost an international race in this boat class since 2010 so there's a lot of pressure there anyway.

"I guess the success of the Olympic rowers kind of gives us a lot of confidence that we're part of a system that's so successful."

pam relph

She won a gold medal in 2012 just two years after taking up rowing

With four years of "hard training" for this event, Pam explained that she's a "completely different athlete". "So much fitter, so much stronger," she explained. "I'm definitely in the shape of my life so I think that this time around I am going in as a seasoned athlete as opposed to somebody who's come up really quickly."

She already boasts an impressive list of accolades, but being awarded an MBE remains an "amazing" highlight for the rowing champion. She received the news during a holiday to America, when she was on the phone to her Mum who offered to open an "important-looking letter" that had arrived.

"She just went silent and I thought the line had gone dead, so I was like, 'Mum?'," Pam reminisced. "She was crying down the phone, she was obviously totally overwhelmed, as was I. It was just completely unexpected, completely."


Pam is supporting the Sainsbury's Supercharge campaign

She added: "I think the whole family was just – I think just because I was so young, I was only 22, to get something as amazing as that was just such a shock. I think my whole family, we were all almost like, 'Can you get that kind of thing when you’re this age?'."

There's one family member who's been a particular inspiration for the star – her older sister Monica Relph, who is GB Women's Senior rowing squad member and introduced Pam to the sport.

"She's still my biggest supporter now and she's also the person who tells me when I just need to toughen up and get on with it," Pam revealed. "It's a really important role that she plays because we're close enough that she can give me a bit of a hard time and I'll listen to her and we won't fall out over it. She's invaluable and her experience even now is stuff that I seek, and I draw from her experience."

Even with her hectic schedule, Pam still tries to give herself some downtime. "If I'm treating myself then I just love baking, any cakes," she said, before quipping: "Great British Bake Off is something that's obviously going to feature quite highly in my life over the next couple of weeks!" 

Athletes representing ParalympicsGB kick-start a new campaign from P&G and Sainsbury’s raising money for the BPA. One P&G product = one donation, exclusively at Sainsbury’s until 20th September. Check stores for more information. Registered charity no. 802385 (England/Wales).

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