10-year-old Kavindu Ranasinghe of Coteford Junior School in Hillingdon was named as joint winner of the Wembley National Stadium Trust Primary-Aged Achievers Award in November 2014.
Kavindu has cerebal palsy with spastic quadriplegia but, despite his reliance on a wheelchair, is always keen to take part in sport.
When he joined Coteford Junior School school three years ago, Kavindu was unable to walk with a Kaye walker. He was immediately encouraged to take part in disability sports training and quickly became an integral part of the Hillingdon Panathlon team.
The 10-year-old has represented the school in precision beanbag, boccia, wheelchair races and wheelchair slalom. He also plays new age kurling & polybat at school and, due to his determination and daily practice, his strength has improved hugely and he can now walk significant distances.
Kavindu’s favourite Panathlon event is the wheelchair slalom race, in which he recently went below one minute for the first time. He now encourages the new young members of the Panathlon team, helping to put them at ease.
This also improved Kavindu’s own self-confidence, as did a recent trip to Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, where Kavindu completed a full set of activities – including a blindfold obstacle course, low ropes and caving – having refused to have any of them adapted for him.
“Kavindu is just such an inspiration. We’re very proud of him,” said Lorraine Veck, Disability Sports Co-ordinator at Coteford Junior School. “When he joined Coteford, he was a shy little person that wouldn’t do anything. He’s come from not being able to walk or throw at all, to now walking with a walking frame and playing the precision beanbag throw, plus doing really well at it.
“His confidence has really bloomed. He’s willing to have a go at anything. People assume he can’t do anything but when he goes back with loads of medals the rest of the children are really proud.
“Lots of children come up to me now asking ‘why can’t i do Panathlon?’ and I have to say ‘well, actually you can’t because you haven’t got a disability!’”
Rohitha Ranasingha, Kavindu’s father, said: “We are very proud of Kavindu. He enjoys Panathlon. He might not do very well, but still he gets to take part and he enjoys it. His confidence has grown and he is quite competitive.
“Last year another boy came first. He said ‘I want to beat him’. He wants to go faster but his electric wheelchair won’t go any faster!
“He was very excited about today, saying ‘I am going to Wembley Stadium!’”
The inaugural Wembley National Stadium Trust Primary-Aged Achievers Award was presented to Kavindu and joint winner Robert Walter in the shadow of Wembley’s iconic arch at Powerleague Wembley.
The award builds on the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Awards by celebrating two of Panathlon’s outstanding competitors from the primary age group, with a view to widening the scope of the awards to all primary-aged pupils next year.