Pamela Relph MBE was a member of the ParalympicsGB Rowing Team from 2011 until 2016.  As part of the British mixed coxed four team she won gold at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Photo of the British mixed coxed four rowing team at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

London 2012 Games gold medal winning GB Paralympic mixed cox rowing team.
Clockwise from centre back: David Smith, James Rowe, Lily (cox), Pamela Relph and Naomi Riches.
Image courtesy of Pamela Relph.

Early life

Born on the 14th of November 1989, Pamela Relph, who is from Aylesbury, has suffered from a condition called psoriatic arthritis since the age of seven resulting in multiple fixed joints throughout her body. Though Pam grew up with the condition she never allowed it to dictate her life choices and played sport at a high level throughout secondary school.

At the age of 16, Pam made the decision to join the British Army and attended Welbeck, a military sixth form college, and then gained a scholarship to the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme. This saw her attend the University of Birmingham, attaining her undergraduate degree in Physics whilst continuing with her military training under the Royal Engineer Regiment. It was during this time that Pam’s condition worsened, and it became clear to the Army medical board that she would not be a suitable candidate for a military career.

This was obviously a severe blow for Pam. However, as one door closed another door opened, and it came in the form of the GB Paralympic Rowing Team who heard about Pam and her arthritic condition from Monica, Pam’s older sister, who had been representing Great Britain as an able-bodied rower for a few years and introduced her to rowing in 2010.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Within a week Pam was classified to compete as a Paralympic athlete. It didn’t take long for success to come and within 9 months of taking up the sport Pam became World Champion in the Legs, Trunk and Arms Mixed Coxed 4 (now called PR3) at the 2011 World Championships in Bled, Slovenia.

The following year Pam went on to win gold at the London 2012 Games along with the rest of the crew; James Roe, David Smith, Naomi Riches and coxswain Lily van den Broecke.

I am so proud to have represented Great Britain at a home games in London. Some fantastic memories of training for London. Were we perfect as individuals? Absolutely not. Did we make it work as a team, most definitely!  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

London was a career highlight for Pam, and it left no doubt in her mind that she wanted to defend her title 4 years later at the Rio 2016 Games. Pam was the only remaining member of the gold medal winning 4 from London 2012 and used her experience to bring on fresh new talent into the para-rowing squad. New members brought great strength to the team and in the 4 years following London 2012 Pam and the crew were unbeatable.

Pam won 15 consecutive international races including four World titles at the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Championships. The GB PR3 boat continued this winning streak and, in 2016, successfully defended the Paralympic gold medal won at London 2012. Pam along with Grace Clough, Dan Brown, James Fox and cox Oliver James took control of the Rio 2016 final from the off and went on to win by a length to successfully defend GB’s title in magnificent style.

Winning gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic games put Pam in the record books as being the first Paralympic rower in history who has won 2 Paralympic rowing gold medals.


Watch Pam discuss the changing perceptions of people with disabilities and how that has been affected by the media Disability: more than meets the eye. 

When Pam announced her retirement, British Rowing’s performance director, Sir David Tanner, said: 

Pam has been a real inspiration for Paralympic rowing over the past six years, helping our LTA coxed four become a dominant force in the sport. As a double Paralympic Champion, Pam’s dedication and winning mentality will be missed by all those in the Great Britain squad and to upcoming rowers across the country.

After retirement as a Paralympic athlete

Retiring from international sport after the Rio Games, Pam moved to Washington DC, USA, with her husband, Rob Jones, a US para-rower in the PR2 category, who she met during the London 2012 Paralympic Games. They had a little boy in February 2020 and Pam is now the co-owner of a beyond-organic farm called Gathering Springs in Virginia.

Training to win those medals has given me the tools I need to have an impact every single day, not just once every 4 years.

See British Rowing’s tribute, Wham bam, thank you Pam, here. 

Outside of sport Pam is involved with numerous charities and is an experienced public speaker.

Achievement and Awards

Paralympic Games

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games Pamela won gold in the Mixed Coxed Four LTA with Naomi Riches, James Roe and David Smith, she won gold again in the same event at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with Daniel Brown, Grace Clough and James Fox. 

Other sporting events

After winning silver in the 2010 British Indoor Rowing Championships, while representing Birmingham University, she went on to win gold at the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Rowing Championships, gold at successive Gavirate International Regattas from 2012 to 2015 and gold at the successive World Rowing Cups from 2011 to 2015, also setting a world record at the 2015 World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy.  

Medal results

  • World Rowing Cup, Munich, Germany, June 2011 – gold medal
  • World Rowing Championships, Bled, Slovenia, September 2011 – gold medal
  • Gavirate International Regatta, Italy, April 2012 – gold medal
  • World Rowing Cup, Munich, Germany, June 2012 – gold medal
  • London 2012 Paralympic Games – gold medal
  • Gavirate International Regatta, Italy, May 2013 - gold medal
  • World Rowing Cup, Dorney Lake, UK, June 2013 - gold medal
  • World Rowing Championships, Chung Ju, South Korea, August 2013 - gold medal
  • Gavirate International Regatta, Italy, April 2014 - gold medal
  • World Rowing Cup, Aiguebelette France, June 2014 - gold medal
  • World Rowing Championships, Amsterdam, Netherlands, August 2014 - gold medal
  • Gavirate International Regatta, Italy, April 2015 - gold medal
  • World Rowing Cup, Varese, Italy, June 2015 - gold medal and world record
  • World Rowing Championships, Aiguebelette, France, August 2015 - gold medal
  • Rio 2016 Paralympic Games - gold medal.

Other awards and recognition

Pamela was awarded a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Years Honours List for her services to rowing.

In 2018, the University of Warwick made her Honorary Doctor of Science (Hon DSc), at the ceremony she said

I am really honoured to be sharing in the experience of all the Warwick graduates because I actually never attended my own graduation ceremony because I was rowing. It didn’t fit with my racing schedule.