Identical twins Katie and Heidi Sheldon epitomised the Panathlon spirit when they represented Warwickshire in the West Midlands Regional Final in Birmingham.
The 13-year-olds from Sutton Coldfield were born prematurely with cerebral palsy and are wheelchair users. They were newcomers to Panathlon in 2016/17, but their positive approach to learning new skills and engaging in competition left a lasting impression when they joined fellow pupils from Langley School in the regional multi-sports final.
“This is literally the best experience of my life,” said Katie. “I love that they give you so much to do in one short day. I love everything about it, especially having the chance to come out and represent our school.”
Heidi added: “This is only my second Panathlon and I like it because I get to meet new people and explore myself as a person; my strengths and weaknesses.”
The twins – who support Birmingham City, sing in a band and have ambitions to appear on Britain’s Got Talent – were looking forward to seeing their classmates the following day.
Heidi said: “When we get back to school, I can’t wait to show off our medals and brag about what we’ve done!”
Katie, whose favourite event was boccia, aspires to be a Paralympic cyclist, and says five-time Paralympic swimming gold medallist (and fellow West Midlander) Ellie Simmonds is her hero.
“I’d love to represent my country and show people that, whatever your disability, nothing should ever hold you back,” she stated.
Heidi, who loves kurling, said she and her sister enjoy a friendly sporting rivalry: ”We are very competitive as people, especially between ourselves. We’re kind of nice and horrible to each other at the same time!”
Joanna Botley, Langley School’s SEN sports co-ordinator, commented: “It’s difficult to describe in words what Panathlon events do for their self-confidence; it’s just amazing. To see the students interacting, team-building and working together is tremendous.
“We have been training really hard for this. We’ve paired the children up from different age groups, which is great because the older students can mentor the younger ones, to give them the opportunity to improve their communication skills.”