Faizan Bidiwala of Little Heath School in Redbridge was named Panathlon’s outstanding achiever of 2014.
The 16-year-old, who has Downs Syndrome, collected the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of his journey since recovering from a life-saving heart operation just three years previously.
Faizan arrived in Ilford from Pakistan in 2011 with very limited English and a heart condition related to his Downs Syndrome that left him short of breath and jaundiced after even a small amount of exercise, severely restricting his participation in any sport.
After recovering from major heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Faizan became involved in Panathlon’s multi-sport competitions, which use adaptive equipment to make them accessible to people with a range of disabilities. He has since gone on to represent his school at boccia and cricket and become a key member of the Redbridge Panathlon team, who won the London Plate Final at the Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park in June.
Panathlon ambassador Liz Johnson, who presented the award, said: “Faizan is so inspiring. Before his heart operation, he couldn’t run a few steps without getting out of breath.
“Today, he leapt up to the stage to receive his award. You wouldn’t recognise him as the same child as that his teacher described previously.
“Panathlon has given him a purpose and an arena where he can achieve and relate to other peers that maybe he couldn’t have done before. In turn, his family can see how he develops. They are all here supporting him today, so hopefully they can push him on to be the best that he can be.”
Being involved in Panathlon has proved of great benefit to Faizan and his teachers at Little Heath School have seen him develop both in and away from the sporting arena, by making him a team player, giving him a sense of competition and helping to make him gracious in defeat.
Ms Christensen, Faizan’s PE teacher for the last five years, added: “Faizan is a true inspiration for everyone. His determination to succeed is outstanding; he always gives his best performance, whether in academic, sporting or vocational pursuits.
“He is fiercely competitive but really supports his team and is encouraging to those who are having a bad day! He is a great role model for his team mates and other disabled pupils.”
Faizan is the sixth winner of the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award, which has been recognising the achievements of some of Panathlon’s most inspirational competitors since 2009.