Sellincourt were crowned overall winners in what turned out to be an incredibly tight contest for the title of 2018 Panathlon London Primary Final champions at the Copper Box Arena.
With 21 schools packing out the London 2012 venue, the competition was split into three groups, with winners crowned in each and the overall champions revealed once all scores had been compared.
In group one (sponsored by St James’s Place Charitable Foundation), it was Christ the Saviour School from Ealing who took home gold, while Howard Park Primary, from Croydon, took the honours in group two (sponsored by the Mayor of London).
But it was the sizzling performance of Sellincourt Primary from Wandsworth in group three (sponsored by GLL) that earned them the overall prize with a total of 39 points – pipping Christ the Saviour (38) and Howard Park (37) by the narrowest of margins.
Sellincourt’s victory was all the more impressive as they were competing in only their second Panathlon event, following their victory in their regional qualifier earlier this year.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for this group of children, ” said Sellincourt Primary’s sports coach Chris Payne. “When they saw the Olympic Stadium on the way here their mouths were gaping open.
Beaming pupil Abdi, (pictured above right), clutched the trophy with pride in the ensuing celebrations and teams photographs, saying: “My mum and dad are going to be so proud of me! I’m going to show everybody my medal and tell them how I won the competition and we’ll all have a celebration. My favourite bit was the basketball because to start with it’s easy and then it gets harder as you get further away from the hoop.”
A gallery of images is available here.
Christ the Saviour beat nearest rivals Foresters by five points while last year’s London Final winners Goldbeaters finished in sixth place.
Hilary Nicholl, teaching assistant at Christ the Saviour, reflected: “It’s lovely for our children to have their moment in the sunshine. The reality is they’re much less likely to get chosen for the main school teams so something like this might be their only opportunity.
“Our Year 6s here today had the choice of going on a school trip to a threatre show or here, and they’ve all chosen to come here. They are overwhelmed by the venue and coming to the Olympic Park. It’s just wonderful.”
Mollie (pictured right) from Barnet-based Goldbeaters School said: “I’ve loved it times a trillion! Before it starts you’re nervous and excited and you want to win, but when you’re here you forget all that and just enjoy it. Being a team, you feel like you’re part of something and you feel that no matter whether you win or lose, you have someone to back you up.”
Leanne Judd, SEN class teacher at Eastfield School in Enfield – who finished fourth in the group – said: “This is an experience that they don’t usually get at all. It’s great for them to be somewhere where they know Olympic and Paralympic athletes have competed and it gives them a huge sense of achievement.”
Howard Park Primary in Croydon took the honours in Group Two by just a single point from Hampton Hill from Richmond.
Maxamillian (pictured left), was ecstatic to take home gold and said the experience had been “epic”. Calling the Copper Box Arena “beautiful”, he added: “This is where the actual Olympics was – it feels so awesome to be in a place where it happened. I have really enjoyed coming here.”
Teacher Sonya Pollington added: “They love that they are a team and that they don’t feel judged or compared to any of the other children. They may not be as successful as other children in reading and writing but here their skills are unique to them, which makes them extremely proud.
“Because they are here as a team it’s all about them and that’s what they don’t get every day at school. Here they are special but in the very positive and fulfilling sense of the word.”
Perhaps the most powerful reaction of the day came from Mitchell (right) of Warren School, who finished sixth in group two. His epilepsy can make him feel ostrasised from some of his peers.
“I love it here because it doesn’t make me feel like I’m unusual,” he said. “Most of the time at school if my legs go and I collapse, I feel unusual, but being here with all these people just makes me feel regular.
“This is my third Panathlon and it makes me feel there’s other people like me. It makes me feel normal for once. Panathlon makes me feel happy. When I get home I am going to hang my medal on my bedroom wall.”
Although Sellincourt scooped victory in this group, as well as overall gold, they only just pipped group rivals Rhodes Avenue by two points.
The five members of the Rhodes Aveneue team, from Haringey, have become friends solely through competing alongside each other in Panathlon competitions. In fact, the school’s sports co-ordinator Adam Alli says they have become “ridicuously close!”
“We’ve done three Panathlon events now and these guys have been such a close-knit team throughout the rounds. They had never even spoken to each other before, but this has brought them all together and they’re never apart now.”
Two of the team members are Turkish and their knowledge of English was sparse, but integration through Panathlon has really brought on their language skills. They have also competed together in boccia competitions.
“Panathlon is such a blessing, it really is,” continued Adam. “It has been a real journey for all of them. I would feel terrible if these kids couldn’t take advantage of this opportunity. A lot of mainstream school, yes, it’s inclusive, but it’s very hard for them to actually get involved. This is totally different and it’s why they love it so much.”
Coming just hours after England’s tense penalty shootout victory over Colombia in the World Cup last-16 game in Russia, the nerves of Rhodes Avenue pupil Bexus Ozta (pictured above left) were still jangling.
“I’m really nervous competing here because of all these seats. It feels a bit like the World Cup last night when they were taking the penalties – loads of pressure! I’ve really enjoyed it though and my favourite thing is the darts.”
Eight-year-old Berat added: “I’m so much better friends with these guys now than I was before. I’m really excited to go home and tell my mum what I’ve done.”
Sixth-placed Ardleigh Green, who joined forces with their Havering neighbours Scargill Junior School, were delighted with their day.
“It means everything for them to be here,” said teaching assistant Wendy Gibbons. “It gives them so much more confidence just to be part of a team. They see other children representing the school and our children are so excited to get that chance now too.
“They often see the other children go off in their football kits, so even the fact they’re wearing the same shirts here and representing the school is marvellous. They definitely wouldn’t get this anywhere else. They’ll be wearing their t-shirts and medals tomorrow in school all day long.”
The day’s Young Leaders were provided by Chessington School, Barking Abbey School and Sir Herbert Leon Academy in Milton Keynes.
Chessington’s PE teacher, Mr Lucas, commented: “Our GCSE PE students have been leaders at quite a few Panathlon events now and throw themselves into it every time. They develop their communication and leadership skills and they thoroughly enjoy working with children. They absolutely jump at this opportunity.”