Hundreds of children compete at Panathlon swim event23 February 2018 Swim England News
Hundreds of children with disabilities and special needs were given the chance to compete nationally when the charity Panathlon held its biggest swimming event yet at the London Aquatics Centre.
The charity staged five finals at the 2012 Olympic venue in January. Including its first national final for deaf children, the South East regional final for children with a visual impairment and a pan-disability national swimming final.
Each of the teams reached the aquatics centre by qualifying through local and regional competitions.
Pupils from Great Arley School in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire, were crowned national champions in the pan-disability competition.
Great Arley’s Assistant Headteacher, Amanda Johnstone, said: “To be able to come somewhere like this and say, ‘I’ve swum in the Olympic pool’ means so much to these children and to their parents. They’ve trained so hard and we are super proud of them.”
Great Arley pupil Kieran Rutter, 13, added: “This shows if you work really hard you can earn experiences and medals like this.”
Neve Allen, from New Oscott School in Birmingham, has a congenital short left femur and hip dysplasia. In 2016, the 11-year-old received Panathlon’s West Midlands Outstanding Achievement Award and is now training for the Mini London Marathon. She said: “Swimming here has been so special. Now I want to get gold in the Mini London Marathon. That’s my next target.”
Heathlands School from St Albans were winners of the charity’s first National Deaf Swimming Final for primary schools. Pupil Orion Rowley, 10, said: “I’ve enjoyed it so much, especially the relay races. Being here makes me feel like a professional swimmer.”
Eight teams from Essex, London, Suffolk and Hertfordshire competed for the South-East Regional Visually Impaired title.
Boyko Djouranov, PE Teacher at Joseph Clarke School in East London, said: “Today showed that the students are more than capable of getting in the pool and competing. With the changeable depth and the volunteers, students with very little sight could be accompanied and we all felt safe.”
Panathlon COO Tony Waymouth added: “Thanks to our partnership with GLL we’ve been able to stage more and more of our swimming finals at this amazing venue every year. For many of our Panathletes, competing here is life-enhancing opportunity.”
Panathlon provides sporting opportunities to over 13,000 young people with disabilities every year.