Gabrielius Misurenkovas has epidermolysis bullosa – a rare genetic life threatening disorder that causes fragile, blistering skin. Through Panathlon and his own incredible determination, he refuses to let his condition interfere with his love of sport.

The 11-year-old is a pupil at Eastbrook School in Dagenham, where his teachers were so inspired by his
achievements in the face of such adversity that they nominated him for Panathlon’s Woodland Group East London Outstanding Achievement awards. He was named as runner-up.

The slightest touch can give Gabrelius severe blisters and open wounds. He has bandages on his wounds all the time and if a blister forms it has to be lanced which is very painful. He cannot take part in any contacts sports. In fact, the rare condition affects every aspect of his life.

The pandemic was a very worrying time for Gabrielius and his family. He was categorised as very high risk so had to be home-schooled. His teacher Nina Nicholas contacted Panathlon and arranged to send him a bag of sports equipment, together with our instruction videos to play specially adapted at-home activities.

When other pupils returned to school, Gabrielius was still too vulnerable to return with them. However, he took part in Panathlon activities at home live via iPad.

Miss Nicholas said: “Even though he was in his front room, he was part of a team and taking part in the same activity. This really helped him feel included and keep his spirits high. The activities allowed Gabrielius to take part in every activity safely and in a competitive environment with his peers and team-mates.”

Gabrielius is now back in school and was part of Eastbrook’s winning team in a Panathlon new-age kurling competition and an in-school Panathlon event. He also loves badminton and table tennis – non-contact sports which he can play safely.

Miss Nicholas said: “When I first mentioned to Gabrielius’ mum and teaching assistant about Panathlon they were extremely worried. However, after attending events their confidence improved. Five years’ later, he is the person on the team giving other pupils advice and calming their first-time nerves!

“There have been times he’s wanted to join in PE lessons, but mum would show me pictures of some of his blisters on his feet. I have no idea how he was managing to not just take part in the lesson, but do it with a huge smile on his face and that cheeky competitive spirit.

“He never ever complains about the pain he is in on a daily basis. He just lives and breathes for all sports. His resilience is inspirational.”

We thank our supporters at Woodland Group for sponsoring our annual Outstanding Achievement awards in East London and Essex