Panathlon, supported by the Wembley National Stadium Trust for its sports work with disabled primary school-age children, recently held its annual end-of-year finals day at the Olympic Park in East London.
The London competition was contested by 14 schools, split into two heats: the WNST heat, won by Gresham School from Hounslow, and the Mayor of London heat, won by Goldbeaters School from Barnet. Gresham won the overall title with 47 points, ahead of Goldbeaters on 45, with Enfield’s Eastfield School and The Warren School from Barking and Dagenham picking up silvers with Redriff from Southwark and Broadfields from Barnet collecting bronze.
Harry Boxall, 10, from the victorious Gresham team, said: “This is really exciting. I’m going to put my medal in my wardrobe!”
Sarah Wilson, teacher at Gresham School, added: “It gives them a sense of being part of a team and they love it. We like the competitive element and it’s just amazing to have won. We’ve never been to the Copper Box before and it’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Hugh Wilkinson, Lead Coach at Goldbeaters School, reflected: “Wow, this is absolutely amazing. The kids have loved every minute of it. To get here takes a lot of resilience for them and to go home with gold medals… I’m almost lost for words!” Standing alongside his teacher proudly sporting his gold medal was 11-year-old pupil Mussallam Aldhefiri, who said: “I was sure we could win. When I get home I think I’m going to scream; I’m so delighted!”
One very special prize was given to Marjorie McClure School pupil Aminata Kalokoh who won the WNST Panathlon participant of the year award (you can read Aminata’s story here).
As he looked around the vast Copper Box Arena, Stewart was able to reflect how far Primary Panathlon had come since his Trust began funding the programme four years ago.
“From our point of view this has been a tremendous partnership and a truly rewarding experience. Getting out and seeing the students having the most fantastic time is a testament to all the work that goes into it, and the skills that the children learn here will have a knock-on effect back in the classroom,” he said.
“When we started looking for a charity to support in 2013 what we were looking for were organisations that were doing something special in disability sport and that had the potential to grow. We couldn’t have picked anyone better than Panathlon.”
Helping Stewart with prize-giving was Panathlon Ambassador Jonathan Coggan, who has competed in four Paralympic Games as a member of the GB wheelchair rugby team, and has just returned from Germany, having retained the European Championship title by beating Sweden.
“I don’t think these children get the opportunity anywhere else,” he said. “To come to a prestigious venue like this must be such a buzz for them. Holding it here shows how strong Primary Panathlon is becoming – and kids are coming from so far away because they know how worthwhile it is for them.”