Mercedes Jacdonmi is the 2019 winner of Panathlon’s top annual honour for competitors in London and Essex – the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement award.
Mercedes (pictured above with Steven Francis from Jack Petchey Foundation and her former teacher at St Angela’s School, Leigh Stevens) is one of the quickest athletes in Panathlon history, and is now part of the GB Paralympic visually impaired sprint squad.
She says she would never have found out how gifted an athlete she is without the opportunities given to her by Panathlon over her five years of involvement.
“I’m in a running club now – and my coach first spotted me at Panathlon,” she says. “Nothing has ever stopped her doing what she wants to do,” says mum Sheila. “When you have them at home, you don’t know how good they are – and she’s so good.”
(Check out all the pictures from the awards right here)
Runner-up was Kavindu Ranasinghe (right) of Ruislip High, has cerebral palsy. He introduced the entire school to Panathlon after enjoying it at primary school – where he picked up the first-ever Panathlon primary award six years ago.
“I like competition!” he smiled. “He loves sport – he’ll have a go at anything in school,” added teaching assistant Janet Edwards. “We’re proud to have him.”
Highly commended for the big prize were Abdul Khan of St Giles School, Cameron Packard-White of Redden Court School, James Sewell of Samuel Rhodes School, Malachi McMara of Michael Tippett School, Nazim Boulkroune of Oaklands School, Nikhil Rajendran of Sherwood Park School, Rayhan Khan of Swanley School, and Tyler Walker of the Springwest Academy.
In a celebration ceremony hosted by John Lewis & Partners in their Viewing Gallery overlooking the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Panathlon’s Ambassador, Paralympic gold medallist Liz Johnson, presented the young people with their awards along with Matt Rantell, grandson of Sir Jack Petchey, representing the Jack Petchey Foundation.
Erin O’Flaherty (left) picked up the Hassan Ahmed Sporting Achievement Award, following a year in which she took part in the London wheelchair mini-marathon, raising hundreds of pounds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital. A student of Riddlesdown Collegiate, her sporting career began when she was introduced to wheelchair sports in Year 7 – and since then she has been an integral part of the Croydon team in table cricket, polybat, bean bag throw and wheelchair relay races, reaching the Copper Box finals for the past three years.
Erin was born with twisted femurs and an undeveloped left hip; she was not diagnosed with cerebral palsy until the age of 11. She picked up the award with her parents and teachers all watching on – and revealed that following an operation in the summer, cutting, rotating, and pinning both her femurs, she is now back at school and enjoying school…including her GCSE PE course!
“She’s done amazingly, we’re so very, very proud of her,” said mum Tara.
For his work at Panathlon finals days and his commitment to mentoring, Thilacshan Ravendran received the Jack Petchey Foundation Young Leader Award (Thilacshan is on the left in this picture along with Sir Jack Petchey’s grandson Matt Rantell and Toyin Fabusiwa, a former Outstanding Achievement runner-up and Panathlon devotee, who was invited to help present the trophies).
An Arsenal fanatic, Thilacshan is also a very keen sportsman himself – and is now also helping out at clubs for younger students at Seven Kings School.
“Panathlon is such a great way to get into sport,” said Thilacshan. “You get to make friends and bond with so many people who might be different to you – and have fun!”
Sidnay Nandingua Siby of Ickburgh School received a special recognition award, praising his development through sport. Sidnay has a global developmental delay, speech and language difficulties, and learning difficulties – and since taking part in Panathlon he has become much more confident at dealing with and overcoming any challenges he faces.
New Rush Hall School were the School of the Year. They work with boys with social, emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties, and teacher Tony Riddle (left) thinks that the opportunity to take part in Panathlon is something that other schools should not pass up.
“No-one judges them, they have fun, and they love to participate,” he said as his students posed for photos with their trophy and certificate. “It’s such a good thing.”
Panathlon Ambassador and Paralympic gold medallist, Liz Johnson, commented: “These awards aren’t just about who wins the most gold medals, or who’s been to the most Panathlon events, they’re about what they’ve done themselves, for their communities, for their schools, for the education process of everybody as a whole.”
Many thanks also to our generous hosts, John Lewis Stratford City who have kindly let us use the Stadium Suite since it opened just after the conclusion of the Paralympics in 2012. It is great to maintain the link to the Olympic Park and the additional fundraising support from John Lewis every year since.