Father and son Russell and Oliver Flower have discovered huge benefits in volunteering together at Panathlon events, taking their involvement to the next level following Oliver’s many achievements as a disabled athlete.
Oliver, who’s 16, has taken part in Panathlon competitions since he was 11, representing Redden Court School and the London Borough of Havering.
Panathlon has been priceless for Oliver, who has always loved sport but found it hard competing with able-bodied children at school during PE lessons. He was introduced to Panathlon in Year 7 and has relished it ever since, honing his skills in boccia, kurling, polybat, table cricket and wheelchair racing.
Oliver said: “I have made great friends who I see regularly at Panathlon events. The events are great fun and I have learned new disabled sports. Most importantly I have learned that using a wheelchair does not stop me from taking part in competitive sport.
“My confidence has increased immensely and I now help officiate at Panathlon events, where I also teach competitors the rules and how to play the various games.
“Panathlon has taught and given me so much including, teamwork, communication skills, building confidence, friendship and enjoyment.”
Oliver has been asked to trial for the national teams by Boccia England and discovering an array of accessible sports through Panathlon has inspired in him an ambition to become a disabled sports coach.
“Without Panathlon I wouldn’t have realised there were so many disabled sports that I could play. I am looking forward to be further involved with Panathlon and learning to become a sports leader and introducing disabled sport to more competitors.”
Volunteering alongside his son at Panathlon competition has given Oliver’s father Russell immense pride and satisfaction.
Russell, a sports coach for many years, said: “I could see Oliver was feeling frustrated and left out of sport due to his disabilities. Thankfully his school took part in the Panathlon programme of events.
“Oliver excelled and his confidence grew. Over the years at secondary school I struck up a close relationship with his SEN sports teachers which ended up with me being introduced to Tony at Panathlon.
“I must say that working and helping out at Panathlon events has been the most enjoyable and rewarding sporting experience I’ve had. To see all of the children with huge smiles and the enjoyment that they get from the events is truly humbling and shows the good that sports can do when sport is all inclusive.”
Russell has observed that no-one is excluded from taking part at Panathlon events and believes that Panathlon should be in more schools as part of the PE curriculum to ensure that all SEN children are involved and to embody the ethos that sport is for everyone.