A team of Leamington and Warwick schoolchildren have won gold at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games, in the Panathlon Challenge - a mini Paralympics for children.
Despite making their Panathlon debut, the pupils from Campion School and Myton School overcame two teams from Buckinghamshire and one from Northants at the Panathlon Regional Invitational event, which saw 136 disabled young people from 11 schools across five counties take part in back-to-back Panathlon competitions.
Ali Knight, PE teacher at Campion School, said: “It’s nice winning it and a lovely feeling for the children, but we’d have gone back happy whatever the result. They won’t forget today.
“We have a few days in our sporting calendar throughout the year and this is one that they’ll remember.”
The 16-strong team, aged 12-15 and with a range of special educational needs, put in a very strong performance to win four of the day’s six events - boccia, new age kurling, polybat and field athletics - many of which use adaptive equipment to make them accessible to more people and create a level playing field.
“It has certainly championed the word inclusive,” said Paul Somers, disability and learning support worker at Myton School.
“The atmosphere had been absolutely fantastic, positive and friendly. It’s our first Panathlon and the team is overjoyed taking part.
“They were looking forward to the day and they got just what they wanted. We hope to be taking part in many more Panathlons.”
Panathlon is a national charity which provides sporting opportunities for over 5,000 disabled young people across the country each year. This is the first Panathlon event to involve teams from Warwickshire, but the Central Warwickshire School Sports Partnership (CWSSP) hope to see more Panathlon events across the county in the near future.
Knight, who is also the School Games Organiser for the CWSSP, added: “A lot of the students were hesitant when we arrived, but within 15 minutes that completely changed. Confidence grows and it’s great teaming up two schools, working together and making friends.
“It’s not just sport; there’s a whole social element that has really helped our students. They are loving it.
“We want every sport to be accessible for all. We’re definitely looking to include Panathlon in next summer’s School Games.”
Myton School pupil Kealey Bradshaw, who won gold in boccia and silver in precision beanbag, said: “There are lots of different activities, I’ve played boccia and the precision beanbag throw, which is new to me, so it’s been really good.”
Megan Turner, aged 15, pupil at Campion School, added: “It was good. I like the boccia. You throw the balls as hard as you can and you focus.
“I’ve won a medal. I’ll show it to [headteacher] Mr Feldman.”