Two young students who defied hearing impairments and other disabilities to push themselves to sporting success have been honoured at Panathlon’s Suffolk Multisport Final.

Nine-year-old Colby Vale (left, in main pic) was named as Panathlon’s 2017 Emma Holloway Foundation Outstanding Achiever for Suffolk at the event at Westbourne Academy in Ipswich on Tuesday 5 July.

Colby, who is a pupil at Priory School in Bury St Edmunds, has learning and communication difficulties and is hearing impaired, but through Panathlon he has become a sporting role model to his peers.

He has to wear BAHAs (bone anchored hearing aids), for which he has to take responsibility, charging them himself and transferring them to his teacher in each lesson. Sometimes they lead to infection and he has to go without them, reducing his hearing by 50%.

Colby has not allowed these difficulties affect his passion for sport, and Panathlon in particular. He previously lived in the shadow of his brother’s football talents, but Panathlon has allowed him to achieve his own sporting ambitions.

This year alone, Colby has taken part in Deaf/HI and multisport competitions and in February he joined with other hearing impaired children from across Suffolk, together finishing as silver medallists at Panathlon’s inaugural Deaf Swimming competition at the Aquatics Centre at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

On Tuesday he tasted more Panathlon success as a team comprised of pupils from Priory and Riverwalk schools was crowned Suffolk champions, notching up 54 points to beat Thomas Wolsey School by eight points.

Colby said: “I’m a really proud young man. I’m very surprised. Winning today and receiving this trophy has made my day. My team-mates have made me very happy and have been really supportive of me receiving this award.”

Angie Shaw, Hearing Impaired Teacher at Priory School, said: “Panathlon has given Colby the confidence to attempt challenging activities. He used to give up quite easily but he now perseveres and will push himself. He has grown in self-esteem and now has belief in his own abilities.

“Colby has shown that you can take part in all that is going on with a learning and hearing disability. He has learned that participating is not about winning but working as a team. He used to get frustrated when losing in a game but he now accepts the success of opponents.”

DDzn0yLXgAECpMCAnother Priory School student receiving an accolade at Panathlon’s Suffolk Multisport Final was Mikey Wade (pictured left).

Mikey’s 2017 Suffolk ‘Highly Commended’ award, also supported by the Emma Holloway Foundation, was the highlight of a packed week for the 14-year-old. On Monday, he competed in the Suffolk Deaf Multisport event, then won Tuesday’s Suffolk Final before a scheduled trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Thursday for the South of England Swimming Final at the London Aquatics Centre!

Mikey was diagnosed with bilateral conductive hearing loss and Eustachian tube dysfunction. When he first joined Priory in September last year, he was reluctant to wear his hearing aids, wouldn’t get involved in activities and lacked confidence and self-esteem.

On being presented with the award, he said: “This has made my day. Priory School has helped me through my struggles. Panathlon has provided me with sport and made me feel like a real member of the school.”

Angie Shaw added: “Being part of the Panathlon games gave Mikey the opportunity to show others that he is more than his disability, and this has had a positive impact on his self-esteem.

“Mikey is a well-liked pupil, and as such his success is celebrated throughout the school. The students going with him to the Panathlon games see him as an example. His friendly and supportive manner means that his fellow students demonstrate pride in his achievements.

“Being part of the Panathlon has helped Mikey to be more confident in his sport abilities. He now plays football during break and one of his favourite subjects is PE, where he is seen helping others.”

Mikey has taken part in Panathlon’s deaf, boccia and swimming competitions, and was part of the very successful Priory team at the Deaf Swimming competition at the Aquatic Centre, venue for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Angie says: “One of the biggest obstacles for Mikey was his fear of failing; this affected him to such a degree that it prevented him from getting involved in even fun and enjoyable activities, if it meant attempting something out of his comfort zone.

“But Mikey is now a much more confident young person, who is also now more accepting that mistakes can happen and they can help learn and develop knowledge and skills.”

She adds: “Mikey has an incredible sense of fair play. Like any boy his age he doesn’t like to lose but he will genuinely congratulate his adversaries. He is a team player, supporting his team-mates and giving all he has into the game.”

Emma Holloway Foundation

Many thanks to the Emma Holloway Foundation for their support for our Suffolk awards and competitions.