Gresham School in Croydon and The Albert Pye School from Suffolk were the big winners at Panathlon’s London and South East Primary Finals at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Copper Box Arena.
Teams from 21 schools, who had all qualified from regional events, gathered at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venue, which for the purposes of this huge event was split into two: one side for London schools and another competition for those in the south east.
The London competition was itself split into two heats: the Wembley Stadium Trust heat, won by Gresham School, 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 in each heat. Redriff from Southwark and Broadfields from Barnet collected bronze.
Across the other side of the hall, Albert Pye School from Beccles in Suffolk were crowned South East champions, beating Halifax School from Ipswich into second, and Colchester’s Doucecroft School, who went home with bronze.
Star of the day for victorious Albert Pye was Riley Barber, winner of our 2016 Suffolk Emma Holloway Foundation Outstanding Achiever award. The nine year old, who has dyspraxia and learning difficulties, is a ‘veteran’ of seven Panathlon competitions. “Being here at the Copper Box is so exciting,” he beamed. “I love it so much – I give it 10 out of 10!”
His PE teacher, Stuart McKenzie, has been leading lunchtime and after-school practice sessions specifically for Panathlon competitions. He said: “One of the many, many things we love about this competition is that it’s not a ‘well done you’ tap-on-the-head kind of event.
“Our school is mainstream and pupils have got to eight county finals this year. When we have kids up on stage in assembly on a Friday, this counts this as an equally impressive achievement to anything the other pupils have done. They get a cheer from the whole school and everyone knows these medals have been earned, not just handed out for participation.”
The competition, like all of Panathlon’s primary-age events, was made possible by the funding of the Wembley National Stadium Trust, whose Chief Executive Stewart Goshawk was in attendance to hand out medals and trophies.
“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.”