Pupils were ecstatic to be back in the water as Panathlon’s swimming galas finally returned last week at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre after a break of almost two years. 

Two competitions in Panathlon’s ‘traditional’ format of races and aquatic challenges took place at the prestigious Olympic and Paralympic venue, one for North London secondary schools and another for special schools from Essex. A third gala saw schools from Southend road-test our new ‘Discovery’ gala format

St Marylebone CE Bridge School were winners of the North London Final. Their teacher Leslie Kojogadogbe said: “First and foremost, students were happy to get back in the pool as previous Covid-19 measures had stopped our swimming lessons at school. 

“The competition gave students a sense of purpose, the chance to be part of a team and promoted sportsmanship and confidence. As a speech and language needs school, it also allowed our students to further improve their communication and social skills. 

“The competition was well planned and structured with each individual event well explained to both staff and students. The students really enjoyed the day and we look forward to attending again in the near future.” 

The team from Cedar Hall School in Benfleet were crowned winners of the Essex gala at the Aquatics Centre. 

“We were firstly delighted to be invited to such a great event,” said a staff member. “We knew it would be a great opportunity and experience for our pupils and staff. 

“The pupils enjoyed every event they participated in from the 25m freestyle to the Slam Dunk Shuttle, raft race and treasure hunt. Each pupil got to participate in three events each in some of the best facilities in the world. 

“As the event finished, we were called to join in the presentation and we were over the moon to hear we finished in first place! The pupils left the Aquatic Centre incredibly proud.” 

Simon Best from Lancaster School in Southend, who finished in second place, said: “Thank you for this opportunity. I want to say how well organised and fun it was. The format and races were brilliant and we loved the team event at the end.” 

Rachel Frost from Lexden Springs School in Colchester added: “Wow! We were so impressed with how well run and organised it was. We would definitely love to come again in the future!” 

The Essex schools gala was brilliantly officiated by Young Leaders from William Edwards School in Grays. 

“The impact on Young Leaders also should not be under-estimated,” said Alexa Joel from the school. “They were once again outstanding role models. 

“Getting this group of leaders out has been important as they have had two years of nothing ‘live’ in terms of leadership.

“There’s a raft of skills they learned today and events such as this give them the opportunity to actually put something into practice. 

“It’s an exciting opportunity for them and I think you can tell by the way they act in the water the enjoyment they get from doing it. They’re motivating young kids to give their best and having asked them if they are up for doing this again, the answer is an overwhelming yes!” 

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It was extremely pleasing to see many new schools enter a Panathlon competition for the first time at the Aquatics Centre. It was marvellous to see children enjoying the thrill of travelling for an external competition, representing their school, being part of a team and participating wholeheartedly in physical activity after so long without such opportunities.” 

<<< Check out full gallery of pics from our three recent galas at the Aquatics Centre here >>>

Thank you to Pentland Brands for their ongoing support for Panathlon’s swimming programmes.