Team Ashford retained their Kent Panathlon Champions Crown with a narrow victory over Sheppey & Sittingbourne in the Kent Finals today held at Sevenoaks School, as part of the wider Kent School Games.

Ashford scored 54 points overall to Sheppey & Sittingbourne’s 52 points. Ashford took gold in the Table Cricket, New Age Kurling and both the Athletics disciplines. Sheppey & Sittingbourne came close with golds in the Boccia & Polybat and second place in all the other sports. See the full results here.

Canterbury & Coastal finished in third place overall and with Dartford in fourth place by the smallest of margins, 2 points only separating these teams.

74 competitors from 7 schools made up the 4 Team in the Final, who had all qualified from the semi-finals, which took place earlier in the year. They had involved 233 competitors from 18 schools trying to reach today’s Final. Read about the earlier rounds here.

We were also privileged to have 2 Paralympians present, Rob Richardson captain of the GB sitting volleyball team at London 2012 and Liz Johnson, our multi-medal winning Ambassador.

One of our competitors Layla, a Powerchair User from the Sheppey & Sittingbourne Team said, “Its my first time here. and I really enjoyed the Powerchair Slalom. It was the first time I have ever competed against other Powerchair users in sport. I’m looking forward to the races still to come!” Her parents, who brought her to today’s competition added, “Layla’s confidence has really come out today. It’s great that she’s meeting children other like herself.”

We were delighted that one of our longest supporters in Kent, Charles Harris was also present to meet the competitors and award some medals.

Our leaders today were from the Malling School, who have been involved for the last 5 years and were excellent as usual!

James Barnes, Head of PE at the Malling School answered some of our questions!

Why did you get involved in Panathlon?

We have now been involved for 5 years. I was looking for leadership opportunities for my year 12 and 13 pupils and Panathlon approached us because they were looking at venues in Kent for Panathlon. We did a swap for free use of our facilities for the training and leadership opportunities for the year 12 and 13 pupils.

_Why do you keep brining the students back?

A couple of the pupils today have come back for the second year in a row, it’s usually the year 12’s but after last year, the year 13’s really wanted to come back and do the finals. The pupils today really wanted to be here and they are really excited about it. They don’t get this type of opportunity anywhere else.

What does Panathlon offer to your pupils?

First a practical course of various disability sports and how to work with young disabled people. And then practical ‘hands-on’ experience! This leads to achievement; they feel positive and they feel like role models and I think that’s the best thing from Panathlon. They feel like they are taking part in something big and and if you look at them they are working with children with disabilities that they may have never come across and it opens their eyes to the bigger picture.

Has Panathlon has a positive influence back at school?

Definitely – getting them used to leading and organising. One of the girls here today would have never stood up to speak to people before Panathlon, she has asked to come back this year and you can see how much her confidence has grown.

Why is Panathlon special?

Panathlon is special because it allows everyone to achieve, all the activities that they do are tailored for the children and you can adapt whatever sport. It’s all suited to the individual.

It also allows children who may not normally get to compete, compete. It is about winning but it’s also about experiencing and being part of a team. At the beginning the children don’t talk to you much but by the end of it they are all chatting away, it’s really amazing.

Bradley Oates, Panathlon Official from The Malling School, “It’s an enjoyable day out to officiate at a Panathlon Competition. It give us the opportunity to bond with impaired children. We’re really pleased to be part of it.”

The schools involved today were-

Sheppey & Sittingbourne = Meadowfield & Canterbury Road Schools
Ashford Team – Wyvern & John Wallis Schools
Dartford Team Milestone & Valance Schools
Canterbury & Coastal Team – St Anselms