October 9th, 2013
Hannah Olateju is an inspiration to everyone at the Panathlon Challenge and beyond.
The 14-year old student from Woodcote School in Coulsdon had both her arms and legs amputated having suffered from meningitis as a young girl, but she has never let that stand in her way.
Hannah, who links up with St Giles Special School in Croydon to take part in sport, got involved in Panathlon three years ago, where she competes in wheelchair slalom, wheelchair relay and table cricket.
This year she helped her Croydon team to third place at the Panathlon London Final, before being selected from over 2,500 eligible competitors to win the 2013 Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award.
This “very proud” moment for Hannah marks the latest high point in a journey for a person who has been inspired by her involvement in Panathlon.
“Panathlon one of the best things I’ve done,” said Hannah. “It feels overwhelming, because without it I wouldn’t be doing much sport. At school we do normal sports and everything isn’t adapted for me like it is here.
“Here I get to express myself in all sorts of sports and compete against other people, but the atmosphere is brilliant so it doesn’t feel like competition. It feels really great.”
Hannah’s involvement in Panathlon has also helped inspire her away from the sporting arena, giving her the confidence to take part in other challenges, like this year’s Kielder Orienteering Expedition. She has also recently begun to walk on her prosthetic legs in public for the first time.
“Panathlon is very important because it helps kids with all sorts of disabilities know that they can achieve, just like able-bodied people,” said Hannah. “Panathlon has helped me feel that I can do something.”
Teacher Paula Arnold describes Hannah as a “true role model for her peers” and “a delight to have around the school.”
“Hannah truly deserves her award,” she added. “We never had a student like her before. She has helped remove barriers in PE lessons and it has been a truly humbling experience to watch Hannah mature and develop her teamwork and social skills.”
Hannah’s older brother Byron has been watching his sister’s journey since the very beginning, overcoming every challenge that has been put in front of her.
“I’m really proud of my little sister. She is very competitive in her approach to everything she does. She is very inspirational to me and everyone around her. We’re extremely proud of her as her family.
“Playing sport through Panathlon has given Hannah such confidence. It has helped her social skills, meeting other people and others in a similar situation to herself, so it has been a great experience for her.”
Hannah’s inspiration stretches beyond her family, friends and teachers to everyone she meets, even Paralympic gold medallists.
“Hannah is amazingly inspirational to everyone around her,” said Liz Johnson, Panathlon ambassador and S6 breaststroke 100m medal winner at each of the last three Paralympics, including gold at Beijing 2008.
“She has got such an obvious disability. When you are missing limbs people can relate to that, because they can think ‘oh, how would I cope if I didn’t have a hand?’
“They have an instant appreciation for her perseverance and hopefully they can take that into their lives and then be the best they can be.”
Liz awarded Hannah her Outstanding Achievement Award in October 2013 at the John Lewis Olympic Gallery in Stratford, overlooking the Olympic Stadium.