Reigning champions Berkshire successfully defended their Panathlon South of England Multisport crown, and were cheered on by Paralympic wheelchair basketball star Helen Turner.
With 56 points, Berkshire – represented by Arbour Vale School of Slough – beat off competition from Surrey, Kent and Hampshire to take the south regional title for a second successive year.
Helen, 39, competed for Great Britain at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games. She lives in Chobhan, just down the road from the event venue, the Surrey Sport Park in Guildford, and has been a Panathlon patron since 2009. She said: “I’m so happy to support this because I know how valuable it is to the students who compete.
“Taking part in Panathlon is fun, as well as competitive, and that is often missing in competitions. I love seeing the students enjoy it and those who want to take sport further can do that.”
“I promote Panathlon as much as I can through tweets, at events and meeting sponsors. It’s a fantastic opportunity for those who take part.”
Arbour Vale School’s assistant head of PE and inclusion lead, Kevin Hughes, said: “After winning last year it is fantastic to be back and do it again.
“It’s been a really great contest and a bonus to win. Just having the opportunity to compete against students from different parts of the country is amazing. Panathlon can’t support us enough. We do everything we can to spread the word about Panathlon and advance the cause in return.
“We have a new team of different abilities and this is a great opportunity for all our students.”
Arbour Vale student Kiranjot Dhaliwal, 19, was having a ‘fantastic’ time. “This is such fun and I am enjoying it a lot,” she said after competing in the wheelchair slalom. “And it’s even better because I have no lessons today!”
Surrey champions Freemantles School, Mayford Green, near Woking, took home silver with 48 hard-fought points.
Last year the team won the Surrey title in their debut Panathlon event. “We were so happy to have won at our first attempt,” said PE and classroom teacher Roger Trigger. “Our students have ASD and anxiety issues and it is a major achievement for them to deal with a change in their routine and all the noise here today.
“I am proud of them and I know they get so much from taking home a prize too. They will be smiling in school for days to come. We are very grateful to Panathlon.”
Two Ashford schools, John Wallis Academy and The Wyvern School, teamed up to take bronze home for Kent with 36 points.
Kay Collins, SEN learning mentor from John Wallis said the link means the students can field a team and benefit from mixing with more students.
“We are a mainstream school but are fully inclusive, so to team up with The Wyvern means we can compete in Panathlon. It’s amazing for our students. We have had the link for several years and this is down to Panathlon, which brings us together.”
Ellie Wiggins-Wilson, Key Stage 3 manager at The Wyvern, said Panathlon is also working with the school to train students as leaders at the local Primary Panathlon games. “This will be a bonus for our students.”
Double Hampshire champions Baycroft School from Fareham scored 28 points and went home happy. PE coordinator Iain Whitwham, said the students are “winners all round.”
“Our team members have got so much out of today with the socialising, teamwork and opportunity to compete. It really keeps me going too, seeing them so happy. We’ve won the Hampshire title twice and everyone has a medal today.”
Harley, 12, who has scoliosis, said she enjoyed the javelin. “It’s great that I am not sitting down. I love throwing and getting medals.”
Panathlon patron Helen Turner retired from international sport in 2014 having not only represented Great Britain at three Paralympic Games, but also the World and European Championships, where she won six bronze medals since her first appearance in 2003. Since becoming a Panathlon patron, Helen has attended numerous competitions in London, Kent, Essex and her native Surrey.
She is currently on maternity leave following the birth of her daughter Evangeline. She works for Surrey County Council’s education department and has taken her Level 2 Coaching for wheelchair basketball. She coaches her local team Woking Blackhawks.