Jack Gair’s Panathlon journey began as a competitor and progressed to becoming an award-winning young leader and ambassador. Now aged just 19, he can already look back on a litany of achievements with justifiable pride.

Jack, from Steeple Bumpstead in Essex, is profoundly deaf and autistic, but he hasn’t allowed these conditions to hinder him. Panathlon has played a big part in his amazing personal and professional progress.

Whilst in the sixth form at Great Baddow High School, he earned a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport, part of which was a young leaders’ programme which involved officiating at Panathlon events, including the annual Essex Panathlon and the regional swimming finals in the Aquatics Centre at London’s Olympic Park.

For his strong and inspiring leadership, he won Panathlon’s Young Leader of the Year award in 2015. His schoolmates, Steve Harrison and Lee Hart, finished runners-up.

“That BTEC Level 3 group and the link with Panathlon had so much to do with Jack’s progression,” reflects his mum, Sam. “I can’t thank Lee and Steve enough, who were runners-up when Jack won the award, or Mr Persey, his sports teacher, and Miss Sudnik, his Communication Support Worker, who were very passionate about Panathlon.

“It really brought him out socially and it’s with their support that he’s now gone as far as he has. Doing those events gave him the confidence and belief in himself that he could do something and actually be really good at it.”

Since leaving school, Jack has begun a sports coaching apprenticeship with Active Essex working for a company delivering extra-curricular sport in primary schools and attends college to do an NVQ Level 2 qualification in Fitness Instructing as well as an NVQ Level 2 in Activity Leadership. He is also a football referee at the weekends.

He has also completed many qualifications in his own time, including FA Level 1 and 2 awards in football and dodgeball, Level 1 in futsal and swimming and his National Pool Lifeguard qualification. He is doing his Level 2 swimming and hopes to complete his FA courses in Coaching Deaf Footballers, Coaching Blind Footballers and Coaching Disabled Footballers soon as well his refereeing award.

Panathlon is a family affair for the Gairs. Jack’s brother Joe is now also doing a BTEC Level 2 qualification and acting as a Young Leader at Panathlon events. Sister Amy has also competed in Panathlons. Both are also profoundly deaf.

“Panathlon has had a huge involvement in where Jack is today, because it’s given him such confidence and shown him that anyone and everyone can play sport, no matter what or who you are,” says Sam. “He has taken that away and applied it to every situation that he’s encountered.

“As well as giving him confidence, Panathlon has helped make people more confident in him, because when you look at his CV and realise what he has done, people can clearly see what he’s capable of, so they’re more willing to give him a go.

“He has taken his coaching and leadership roles in his stride. He is a great motivator and just seems to be able to get through to people and facilitate their love of sport, because he shares that passion himself.”

Jack himself added: “Panathlon is a really good opportunity for Young Leaders to work with disabled children in sport and to help them take part and have fun. It is good because you can use the skills you learn in the future too.”

“It helps you learn to communicate with children with all different needs and all different problems  and realise they want to enjoy sport the same as you do and you can help them do this. Because you are helping others it makes you feel good.”