Ryan Payne, our 2017 Gloucestershire Outstanding Achiever award runner-up, has finally got his hands on his treasured trophy.

The nine-year-old was unable to attend the Primary Panathlon at Hartpury College in June at which our Gloucestershire winner McKenzie O’Reilly received his prize from Panathlon Ambassador Liz Johnson.

But Ryan, who is a student at Oakwood Primary School in Gloucester, was presented with his trophy at a special end-of-term assembly.

“Watching Ryan’s face as the presentation was made was amazing,” said Oakwood’s Head of PE, Tara Godsell. As the description of the winner’s achievements was being read out, he turned to his teacher and said: “That boy sounds just like me!” before realising it was indeed him!

Ryan was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular Dystrophy at the age of three. On starting school, he was as physically able as his peers, but by Year 2 he was using a wheelchair all the time.

Dealing with the pain of his condition and accepting at such a young age that he was different from the others in his class were difficult. Ryan could see that as his peers were becoming stronger and more able, he was becoming weaker and less able to participate in activities, even those he did previously. With all of this to deal with, Ryan was often very anxious and lacking in self-confidence.

Moving through Year 3, Ryan had quite a negative attitude about school, found it very tiring and struggled to cope with the increased work expectations. However, through negotiating with Ryan, his alternative afternoon curriculum emerged. This is now what gets him through the morning, knowing that he can do the things that he enjoys, frequently with a select few of his peers. Since participating in Panathlon, the activities he chooses to do are much more likely to be sport-based.

Ryan participates in physio exercises with his Support Assistant, Charlie Haddon, every day in school, which he frequently tries to resist or avoid. Mrs Haddon encourages him by reminding him that the physio helps to keep his muscles working well so that he can participate in events such as Panathlon and activities with his friends. His usual response is, “Can we play boccia later? When is Panathlon?”

He has also been taking steroids, since he was seven, to slow down his muscle degeneration. In those two years Ryan has suffered the miserable side effects of significant weight gain and mood swings. Ryan sees a counsellor on a weekly basis in school to help him learn ways to help to deal with these emotions. He has found the most effective technique for him is to talk about what he is feeling. Even at his most anxious, he knows that if he can keep talking about it, he can get through it.

Congratulations Ryan! We look forward to seeing you compete at Panathlon events in 2017/18!