Few stories demonstrate the true impact of Panathlon and its legacy better than that of Newham youngster Jordan Andrews.
Jordan is autistic and, as a result of his condition and related confidence issues, he didn’t play any sport when he was at primary school.
Not that you would ever have guessed from watching the Year 10 student in action at the Panathlon East London Final, where his fantastic performance helped Newham to a thrilling victory.
“I had a great day,” said a smiling Jordan, showing off two gold medals won in the standing long jump and javelin events, along with two silver medals won in polybat and the athletics relay.
This is the fourth year that Jordan has taken part in the Panathlon Challenge, having got involved when he joined Langdon Secondary School, the venue for the East London Final.
His performance at Panathlon has improved year-on-year and, last November, he won the 2012 Jack Petchey Outstanding Sporting Achievement Award, named after Hamza Hussein, another Newham Panathlete, who sadly passed away in March 2012.
“It was so exciting. I can’t describe how it felt,” said Jordan about receiving the award, from Hamza Hussein’s Father, and also pictured with Jack Petchey CBE and Liz Johnson, Paralympic champion.
This topped off a fantastic year in which he ran at the Olympic Stadium as part of the Newham Team with 20 other Panathletes in an official London 2012 test event.
It is quite a transformation and one that has been witnessed by Newham team manager Steve Peaty. “Before he started Panathlon, Jordan’s confidence wasn’t there,” said Peaty. “Now he’s come on leaps and bounds. His self-esteem has improved and he’s come out of himself a lot.”
Peaty is a coach at Newham and Essex Beagles, one of the UK’s leading athletics clubs. Once home to legends of the track such as Mo Farah and Daley Thompson, the club now boasts Jordan amongst its members.
“Jordan was initially coached part time with some other autistic boys separated from my main squad, but he’s progressed to the point where he now trains with my full squad full time,” said Peaty.
Next stop for Jordan is the Panathlon London Final on 19 June and he cannot wait.
“Yeah I’m sure it’s going to get even tougher, but I have to be there. They can’t play without me!” he said.