Doncaster School for the Deaf were crowned South Yorkshire Primary Swimming champions at Ponds Forge in Sheffield – and it was a special day for a member of third-placed St Catherine’s School too.
Doncaster were silver medallists behind Heritage Park School in this event last academic year, but they avenged that result this time around by amassing 75 points on Wednesday (March 20), edging out Heritage Park (65) into second place, with St Catherine’s (63) earning bronze.
Doncaster School for the Deaf pupil Seth Holmes, 10, said: “It feels very exciting. I’m very, extremely happy! To win it in a big arena like this makes it extra special.”
His teacher, Rebecca Taylor, added: “I think it’s wonderful they get to mix with children who have different disabilities. No-one gets left out here. The social aspect to it is very important for our children who are deaf. We will make sure we share this success in assembly back at school. It’s fabulous for their confidence and self-esteem.”
Cole Stansfield, 11, was star man on third-placed St Catherine’s team and was supported by his grandad Andy Wilson. Cole will be going up to a mainstream high school in September so this is likely to be his last Panathlon event, having competed in many swimming and multisport events before.
Cole was last year named Sheffield Young Athlete of the Year, having been nominated by his swimming teacher, Malcolm Johnson and other members of staff.
His grandad Andy (pictured with Cole, right), who is the school’s caretaker, explained: “Two years ago, Cole couldn’t swim and was scared to even put his foot in the water. Mr Johnson encouraged him so much and eventually here he is competing in a big event like this.
“He was nominated because he deserved it for being courageous and showing his true colours. We’re really proud. To come here and take part in this is wonderful. He loves it.
“Cole has done four Panathlons. The first time he ever came here, he came back with the biggest beam on his face and he said, ‘Grandad, I’ve won a medal.’ To him, it means the world. He’s got no fear. These kids are so determined to achieve, it’s fantastic to see.”
There was plenty of courage on show from Phillimore Community Primary School in Sheffield too. Teacher Jo Searle explained: “Every one of them has been so scared before they got in the water, but once they’ve done their race, without exception they’ve said, ‘I did it! I’m not scared any more!’
“At school we have Secrets of Success each week and this week’s theme has been ‘Try something new’ which is very appropriate. This is just such a fantastic opportunity for children who hadn’t represented the school before.
“We’re a mainstream school so it’s ideal for those children who get overlooked when you’re looking at gymnastics or athletics teams. It’s great for those children who do have some sort of disability to go up in assembly and be recognised for doing what they see their peers doing all the time, but may never have had the opportunity before.”
Phillimore pupil Marianne Obida el Ibrimmi, 10, said: “It was hard at the beginning but then we just thought about not giving up and we did it. I’m probably going to put my medal in a special place because it is special to me.”
Her friend Loai Shabi, 11, added: “This must be what it’s like swimming in the Olympics! I feel so proud because I tried hard so it doesn’t matter even if I didn’t win.”
Arnab Deb, 11, was Phillimore’s team leader and gave a rousing speech to the squad before the competition began. He said: “Try your best, be proud of yourself whatever you do and have fun!”
Dante Gordon, a member of the silver medallist Heritage Park team, certainly carried out those instructions as well. On what was his 11th birthday he pronounced the day “amazing” and promised to put his medal in a frame.
His teacher, Craig Watt, said: “For me, it’s all about the taking part, working as a team and giving them that sense of togetherness. We do lots of different activities throughout the school year and this is an important part of that package.”
A clearly exhausted but elated Rudy Donahan, 10, from fifth-placed Rowan School, said: “I loved it! I never lost one race, you know! I owed it to my team-mates to do my best. I thought me and my team would really struggle but we turned out to be really great. When I get home I’m going to show my medal to my mum and dad and just chillax!”
Greenacre School from Barnsley, who finished sixth, have thrown themselves into Panathlon events over the last couple of years, competing in swimming, ten-pin bowling and multisports competitions.
“It’s obviously really good to promote children being active but meeting children from other SEN schools and being part of healthy competition, the team spirit and everything that goes with that is wonderful,” said teacher Charlotte Walker
“The buzz when they get back to school is incredible, they just want to tell all their friends about it and show off their medals.”
The day’s Young Leaders, who performed their tasks superbly, were provided by Park Academy in Sheffield and the day was supported by St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation, Pentlands Brands and Garfield Weston. We would also like to thank Dawn Wood and Helen Solly from Links SSP and Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.