A homegrown paralympian is urging the people of Bucks to get involved with an international event being held locally.
World champion rower, Pam Relph, from Weston Turville, who won paralympic gold in 2012, is calling on people to get involved as much as they can in the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium on September 2.
Miss Relph has also been selected to represent Great Britain in the Rio Paralympic Games.
The 26-year-old 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 games and Stoke Mandeville, 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.
Miss Relph, who went to Aston Clinton Primary and John Colet schools, has psoriatic arthritis, a degenerative condition severely affecting her right arm and wrist that made her give up a promising army career, aged 20. She was diagnosed with the condition at the age of seven.
She said: “I was told by the Army I was not suitable for a career because I was not suitable to be deployed.
“I had joined up when I was 16 and was really devastated the career I had trained for and studied for came to an end. I had a strong military background in my family and wanted to carry it on. I was really gutted. Every major life decision up until then had been based on me getting in to the Royal Engineers.
“My whole family went through that process with me. I called up my mum, gutted and in tears and was completely at a loss over what I was going to do next. I had no plans.”
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.
Pam’s arthritis means the bones in her right hand and right fist are fused together, severely decreasing her strength in this arm.
Miss Relph added: “It took me a good year to come to terms with trying to compete as a disabled person. I never would have considered myself to have a disability.
“I didn’t want to allow my condition to beat me. It wasn’t long before I realised that going to the Paralympics isn’t second best. I have this condition and I am not going to let it beat me. Going to the Paralympics was proving to myself that I was the super tough person I thought I was. The competition was fierce and you find yourself training alongside the Olympic team.”
To support the Heritage Flame Lighting event, visit www.buckslegacy.org.
Miss Relph will not be at Stoke Mandeville because she will be competing for the GB rowing team in the Legs, Trunk and Arms mixed coxed four.