As part of yet another huge Panathlon swimming week at the London Aquatics Centre, 33 visually impaired swimmers competed in our first regional V.I. Final.

Eight teams from Essex, London, Suffolk and Hertfordshire competed across individual races, along with specifically adapted team challenges to allow completely blind students to take part.

Suffolk team manager Angie Shaw commented: “It was so wonderful to have a competition where all the participants were in the same disability space. Our children love to compete but do feel embarrassed and a failure when they don’t do well.

“To have a group of teams who are all on the same level is fantastic. I then becomes about how good you are and not how much your disability affects you. Needless to say they all had a fabulous day and can’t wait for next year.”

One Suffolk competitor added: “I am never taking my medal off!”

Boyko Djouranov, PE teacher at Joseph Clarke school in London said: “I am so pleased we were able to come to this swimming event. Typically getting visually impaired students out to compete is tricky, especially to swimming events which can be seen as slightly dangerous.

“Today showed that these students are more than capable of getting in the pool and competing. With the changeable depth to ensure our students could stand if needed, and the volunteer help, it was excellent because it meant our students with very little sight could be accompanied and we all felt safe.”

This positive feedback was echoed from teachers supporting the Essex teams. “We’ve had a fantastic day and it has been brilliant to give our visually impaired students the chance to meet other children and bond,” said a member of the suport staff.

“Our team was made up of students from four schools and it was lovely to see them all working together in the pool and then chatting after the races. We hope there’s lots more opportunity through Panathlon and we’ll certainly be back,”

After several hours of close swimming competition, only three points separated gold, silver and bronze! The Suffolk first team picked up gold (pictured top with red t-shirts), with the Suffolk second team taking the silver medals. A brilliant effort from Essex saw them finish third ahead of London, the Essex second team and the sixth-placed Hertfordshire orange team.

Tracey Hunter , Hertfordshire Specialist Teacher for VI, commented: “All the kids had a great time and were able to meet other VI children. None of them are strong swimmers but they all felt confident with the floor in the pool raised and with volunteers in the pool.

“All the events were perfect and the whole event ran well with just enough time for the kids to recover from a race but not so long that anyone became bored. The main comment from the kids was that next year they want to win! We’ll be practising!!

Photo 01-02-2018, 11 16 31The young leaders came from Kingsbury High School in Brent (pictured left) who did a great job both in and out of the water.

Emma Amos, who is deaf/blind, competed for the Hertfordshire team in the VI Final and represented Knightsfield in the previous day’s Panathlon National Deaf Championship, also at the Aquatic Centre.

David Amos, Emma’s father, said: “These have been such brilliant days. We never thought our daughter would be able to do something like this and in a venue like this. Both days have been so inspiring and we look forward to involving Emma in other Panathlon events.”

A huge thanks must go to our funders and partners including St. James’s Place Charitable Foundation and Ovingdean Foundation for their ongoing support to make these events possible.

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