BARKING AND DAGENHAM WORTHY LONDON PANATHLON CHAMPIONS

The stakes were high and the competition fast and furious. 5 elite teams of young athletes assembled at the Westway Sports Centre in West London on 24 June to determine which would have the honour of being crowned London Panathlon Champions 2010.

The teams were from Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Harrow, Haringey and Lambeth. For 3 hours they battled and gave their all to try and win the ultimate prize. The sports in which they competed were Boccia, New Age Kurling, Football, Polybat, Table Cricket and Athletics. The contest was very close throughout and it wasn’t until the final event, athletics, when the result was decided.

And although it was devilish close, Barking and Dagenham, the current champions, proved their pedigree to win with the impressive total of 60 points. They were chased all the way by Croydon, twice winners in the past, who finished on 50 points. Harrow, Harringey and Lambeth were competing in the final for the first time and will have learned much from the experience.

Kate Hoey, London’s Commissioner for Sport, was in attendance, trying very hard to be an impartial supporter even though her own team, Lambeth, were represented. Kate said “With the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games fast approaching, Panathlon is exactly the kind of initiative that we should all be getting behind. It brings real, competitive sport to those who might otherwise have missed out on involvement. The Mayor and I are both committed to getting as many young people as possible involved in sport. Events like this show that disability need not be any obstacle to participation. Panathlon deserve huge praise for what it is doing.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said, ‘The Panathlon Challenge is a fantastic competition. It is about taking part, aspiration and achievement, three of the best motivators for young people. As 2012 approaches, I hope tournaments like this will inspire more Londoners, young and old alike, to take up sport and physical activity.’

225 athletes with severe learning difficulties and/or physical impairments, aged between 8 and 18, competed in the event. Liz Johnson, Paralympic Gold Medallist in Beijing 2008 attended the event to encourage the competitors and award medals. She was joined by fellow Gold Medallist and champion swimmer Giles Long.

The event took place with the help of new investment of £83,500 from the Mayor of London through the Sports Legacy Plan for London to increase the number of young disabled people involved. Additional funding comes from the Football Foundation and the Jack Petchey Foundation.

Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “Panathlon does outstanding work in opening up a wide range of sports to our capital’s disabled young people. The Football Foundation’s funding has enabled Panathlon to provide football for around 450 footballers with severe learning difficulties and to launch Powerchair football in five clubs across London this year.”

The Panathlon Challenge is now in its tenth successful year of delivering sporting opportunities and “mini-paralympic” type competitions for young disabled Londoners. This year around 1,000 participants have been involved. It has invested around £250,000 in sports equipment, coaching sessions and multi-sports competitions for severely disabled young people across the country.

There was a demonstration of Powerchair Football for severely disabled young people in a ground breaking project with the Wheelchair Football Association, Brentford FC Community Trust and Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. Panathlon supported by the Football Foundation, are creating five Powerchair Football clubs in London supported with specialist equipment and coaching.

Danny Crates, Paralympic Champion and Panathlon charity patron said: “Panathlon is a fantastic opportunity for young disabled Londoners to take part in sporting competition and I wish everybody the best of luck in their own search for gold medals.”

The Jack Petchey Foundation has donated £35,000 towards the Panathlon Challenge in London in 2010. Trudy Kilcullen, Chief Operations Officer for the Jack Petchey Foundation said. ‘We are pleased to be supporting Panathlon once again, which will benefit many hundreds of young disabled people in London.”