Through lockdown, Panathlon’s ambassadors have been meeting children with disabilities and special needs via Zoom and inspiring them to pursue their sporting ambitions.
Nathan Maguire, the GB Paralympic wheelchair racer, has held regular Q&As with schools who are engaged in our virtual programme.
Panathlon’s very own international para athlete Freya Levy has also connected with young Panathletes around the country, while England rugby union star Jodie Ounsley, three-time national deaf tennis champion Esah Hayat and England deaf cricketer James Dixon have been inspiring deaf students with online Q&A sessions. In addition, Rachel Morgan, two-time world blind tennis champion has left pupils in raptures.
One pupil, Faith, who’s in Year 8 at South Wirral High School, put pen to paper to thank Nathan for joining her and classmates last week.
(Faith is pictured above doing Panathlon’s At-Home Challenges with her sister and brother, Ryan and Rebecca, who go to Heygarth Primary School in Birkenhead).
“On Monday we had a special visitor on our Panathlon Challenge, Paralympian Nathan Maguire. The session was very interesting because we got to learn about his childhood and what it was like when he first became disabled.
He said he was a normal boy of eight who loved running and all sports, but then one morning he woke up with pins and needles in his legs and feet and couldn’t walk. The doctors said it was due to spinal problems.
We got the opportunity to ask him questions about anything. I asked, “Out of all the places you have competed what was your favourite?” and he said that his favourite was Australia.
He said he was the only disabled person in his whole school, but he wanted to carry on doing sports so decided to go to lots of clubs for people with disabilities mostly for people in wheelchairs, like basketball and rugby.
“I found this experience very inspiring because he told us that anything is possible and that his disability is the best thing that ever happened to him. This makes it even more inspiring because he has achieved so much and it will give lots of people motivation no matter whether they have a disability or not!”
Nathan himself has loved meeting and motivating so many pupils who have been so frustrated by the Covid-19 lockdown over the last few months.
After one session with pupils at Chiltern Wood School in Buckinghamshire, he said: “What awesome questions I had today from all three classes – especially the one asking ‘does your wheelchair go to the carwash to get cleaned?!’
Rachel Morgan, who is currently the world’s best blind female tennis player, has also proved a hit with blind and visually impaired students at schools who are part of the Panathlon programme.
After one session, Tracey Hunter from Hertfordshire Council said: “It was fabulous to see children getting together for the first time in lockdown and interacting not only with themselves but also a visually impaired role model.”