Georgina Hart of Jo Richardson School in Dagenham is the latest winner of the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award – Panathlon’s top individual honour.
The 15-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is an inspiration to all and a key member of the Barking & Dagenham team, who she helped to second place in the Panathlon London final at the Copper Box Arena in the Olympic Park in June 2015.
Before the final, Georgina was selected to read the Panathlon oath on behalf of all the competitors, alongside Paralympic champion and Panathlon ambassador Liz Johnson.
“Georgina is an inspirational young lady and fully deserving of her award,” said Liz, who presented the award at Panathlon’s annual celebration of achievement. “She is a perfect example of how Panathlon uses the power of sport to change people’s lives.”
Georgina has been inspired by Panathlon since joining Jo Richardson School in 2012. She competes in the precision beanbag event and running races and has been an integral part of a team that has won the east London Panathlon title for the last two years, finishing as narrow runners-up in London final at the Copper Box on both occasions.
An inspiration to her fellow competitors in the Panathlon arena and beyond, Georgina is a member of a local cycling club, drama group and young people’s group – where she is creating a website to showcase activities available to local young disabled people – and is looking forward to the challenge of completing her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
“When I first met her at Panathlon a few years ago, she wasn’t even that sure if she wanted to be there,” added Liz.
“But she’s grown in confidence and become more outgoing. Now she’s even started her Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – something that just would not have appealed to her before.”
Georgina’s go-getting attitude has been an inspiration to the younger students in the Panathlon team. She recently tried out being a sports leader and helped to successfully run a seated volleyball competition at a recent festival for pupils from a local primary school.
Lesley Montague, teacher at Jo Richardson School, said: “What struck me more than anything when I first met Georgina was her energy and enthusiasm, infectious smile and wicked sense of humour.
“What makes Georgina outstanding is her total positivity. She just happens to have a disability and strives not to be defined by this, but by her ability to achieve whatever goals she sets herself in life.”
Georgina is the seventh winner of the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award, which has been recognising the achievements of some of Panathlon’s most inspirational competitors since 2009.
Her mother says Georgina has thrived since being introduced to Panathlon by her senior school and credits the charity with giving her daughter hope for the future.
Susan Hart said Georgina went through junior school never being picked by her schoolmates during PE lessons because of her disability due to cerebral palsy. “It was heartbreaking for her,” she said.
But when Georgina joined Jo Richardson Community School, she started taking part in Panathlon events – and did so well it gave her the confidence to try other activities.
Susan said: “Before Georgina started senior school, I could not see a future for her. I used to cry every time I thought about it. But Panathlon has opened so many doors I can now see a future.
“You just want them to have that chance in life and that’s what Panathlon’s done. It’s given Georgina confidence. She can do sports within a group and actually have a chance of winning. The confidence and determination that she’s got from it have been unreal.”
The Panathlon Challenge has inspired a weekly disability sports club at Georgina’s school, where she competes in and referees boccia matches.
Georgina said: “I help Year 7 and Year 8 boys, and challenge them. Sometimes I help them to win. It’s great fun and it gives me confidence in life.”