Pupils shine as they win gold and silver medals at Olympic venues
- Credit: Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Ima
Talented youngsters from three schools in Waveney are celebrating after impressing at national contests.
Pupils with disabilities and special needs from Albert Pye Primary School in Beccles, The Ashley School and Red Oak Primary schools in Lowestoft competed in two national Panathlon finals.
Albert Pye led the way as they won gold medals in Panathlon's national primary multisport final at the Copper Box Arena - a London 2012 venue – on Thursday, with the Red Oak team finishing fourth in their group.
The Albert Pye pupils jointly won their group with the same score as Sellincourt Primary School from London.
Teacher Stuart McKenzie was delighted, he said: 'The children have been practising at our special Panathlon club at school each week.
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'The standard of competition seems really high this year so we are absolutely delighted to have won gold medals.'
Meanwhile the Ashley School pupils were crowned as national runners-up in Panathlon's U14 swimming final at the London Acquatics Centre on Thursday.
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Competing in a range of swimming races at the prestigious London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venue, the Ashley finished in second place, repeating their silver medal performance in the same event in February.
The Ashley's swimming coach Neil Godbold said: 'This is the 'best of the best' here. It's a huge success. More schools should get involved in it, there's no doubt about it. Panathlon is having a massive effect on all the competing schools because the standard is getting higher, schools are putting more resources into training and kids are getting so motivated.'
Equally pleased, Jonny Lee, Red Oak's PE co-ordinator, said: 'Last year was our first year competing in Panathlon and we've qualified through North Suffolk and then our county finals to get here.
'We run weekly Panathlon clubs for 40 children with physical disabilities and special needs in our school and our hard work is paying off in raising participation.
'Their self-esteem, confidence and co-ordination skills are all developed greatly by taking part. In a normal sports session sometimes there are individuals who dominate, whereas in Panathlon everybody gets the same attention and chance to participate, rather than an environment where the 'best' and most able hog the limelight.'
Joining Albert Pye pupils as a coach and role model for their young competitors was former pupil Riley Barber, who has now moved up to high school.
He owns nine Panathlon medals and last year won their Emma Holloway Foundation Suffolk Outstanding Achievement award.
Mr McKenzie said: 'We've brought our Mr Panathlon with us! Riley followed Panathlon all the way through his life with us and although he's now gone on to high school we couldn't resist inviting him back.
'Our kids really look up to him. He is all you need to know about the impact Panathlon has had on our school.'
The Ashley's swimming coach Neil Godbold said: 'We've been competing in Panathlons for four years.
'We've brought three new children who've not been here before and seeing their faces when they saw this arena was amazing.'
Jonny Lee, Red Oak's PE co-ordinator, added: 'One of our lads actually cried he was so happy about being selected to come here.
'Some of them told me they didn't sleep they were so excited to come here. It's one of those experiences they will never forget.'
About the events
Panathlon is the charity that gives over 17,500 young people with disabilities and special needs every year opportunities to take part in competitive sport that they are so often otherwise denied.
On Thurssday, 17 school teams from all over England competed in the inaugural Panathlon primary multisport final at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venue, each of whom had won their regional qualifying events to be there.
Competing in specially-adapted versions of sports such as boccia, basketball, precision beanbag and athletics races, Red Oak pupils impressed as the Albert Pye pupils secured gold overall.
Competing in a range of swimming races, the Ashley School pupils were crowned as national runners-up in Panathlon's U14 swimming finals on Thursday.
Egerton Rothesay School from Buckinghamshire were crowned winners, but The Ashley's swimming coach Neil Godbold was still delighted to finish ahead of eight other teams, including defending champions Great Arley from Lancashire, who were third.