Finn Bartholomew from Alexandra Park School in Haringey has won Panathlon’s Jack Petchey Foundation ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award for his extraordinary determination and long list of sporting accolades.
As well as excelling in seven Panathlon competitions, the 14-year-old has embraced every other sporting opportunity offered to him by Brendan Amooty, the school’s specialist PE teacher.
Finn has never allowed himself to be held back, despite the difficulties caused by his muscular dystrophy, an incurable degenerative condition which leads to loss of muscle mass and physical strength.
Finn made a big impression playing in goal for Alexandra Park’s football team who finished third in the Panathlon North London Final. He then helped the team win the Panathlon Football Plate Final at Wembley Power League. Last year, Finn was part of the 10-pin bowling squad crowned Panathlon Haringey champions.
He has represented Haringey and Middlesex in a variety of sports including in the role of co-captain at the London Youth Games boccia finals, where they won the competition in 2023 after finishing fifth in 2022. He captained the school to victory at the Middlesex Table Cricket Championship, then went on to represent Middlesex at the South-East England Championships at Stoke Mandeville, where they came third.
As he clutched the large Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Achievement trophy, Finn said: “I think this will have to go in the living room because all my bedroom shelves are full of Lego!
“Panathlon has been very important to me because my disability means it’s harder for me to take part. When I do Panathlon, I feel included and have fun trying out loads of different sports.”
Mr Amooty (winner of last year’s Jack Petchey Foundation ‘Special Recognition’ award for the work of Alexandra Park in promoting sporting inclusion) said of Finn: “He demonstrates time and again what is possible by focusing on his abilities, not his disabilities.
“Finn shows a lot of positivity and resilience when competing and makes the most of every opportunity he is given. He doesn’t allow the fact that he has muscular dystrophy define what he can and can’t do.
“Everyone at school is really impressed with Finn’s can-do attitude. No matter what subject he engages in, he always excels. There’s no sport in which he doesn’t give his very best effort.”
Alexandra Park has taken part in numerous Panathlon competitions over the years including multisport, boccia, Xtend, swimming, athletics and 10-pin bowling.
“No matter what level a child is working at, they can be included at Panathlon with a great big smile on their face and gain a sense of achievement,” says Mr Amooty. “When they get back to school, there’s such a spin-off into other subjects and lift in confidence.
“Our involvement in Panathlon has made a huge difference to a big percentage of our school community – not least Finn!”
Finn’s enormously proud father added: “Panathlon and sport in general has made Finn who he is. I can’t praise Brendan and the school enough for backing Finn and giving him all these opportunities.
“It’s about being able to take part and feel part of something. I can’t stress how important that is for someone who is progressively losing strength and control.
“Engaging with the world is major for his underlying mental health. Making Finn independent is crucial and this gives him that independence because he’s doing it himself.”
Jessica Villiers, Grants Officer at the Jack Petchey Foundation (pictured above), added: “Young people like Finn are particularly inspiring and they truly embody what the Jack Petchey Foundation promotes. Thanks to the amazing work of Panathlon, Finn is given a platform to build confidence and achieve. As Jack himself always says, ‘If you think you can, you can!’”
Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are delighted to crown Finn as our 2023 Outstanding Achievement award winner. His boundless enthusiasm for sport, and Panathlon in particular, makes him a role model and inspiration to his peers. We look forward to seeing him at many more of our events through his time at Alexandra Park.”