Hartlepool school pupils impress Paralympic silver medalist

Springwell student Leland Dack competes in boccia
Springwell student Leland Dack competes in boccia

Pupils from Springwell School in Hartlepool narrowly missed out on being crowned champions at the Panathlon Northern Divisional Final in York.

The multi-sport event was a meeting of top young athletes with disabilities and special educational needs across the North of England.

Paralympian Rik Waddon at the event

Paralympian Rik Waddon at the event

Springwell, representing Tees Valley and supported by Tees Valley Sport and Tees Valley Community Foundation, had already battled through two regional qualifying rounds to reach this climatic stage of the competition.

Although they finished ahead of third-placed Gateshead (represented by Cedars School), they ended as runners-up behind Yorkshire, represented by Brooksbank School near Halifax.

More than 50 students in all gathered at the Energise Centre to compete in events such as boccia, table cricket, polybat, new-age kurling and field athletics.

Scott Mallabar, Springwell’s PE coordinator said the eventr was a huge success and the children worked well together as a team.

He said: “The kids are not only working hard for themselves, but working together effectively, putting strategies and tactics into place.

“There are wheelchair users and able-bodied kids here, it’s so inclusive.

“These are always great events and we really look forward to them.”

Springwell pupil Leland Dack, nine, said: “It’s so much fun. It’s so enjoyable I definitely don’t want to miss out on the next one. My favourite event is the boccia. I’ve just had my bedroom decorated, so I can’t wait to hang up my medal on the wall.”

The event had a sprinkle of stardust with the attendance of Rik Waddon, the double Paralympic silver medallist in C3 road cycling.

Having missed out on qualifying for the Rio Games due to a quirk of the British selection system, he is now focusing on ending his career with a long-cherished gold at Tokyo in 2020.

He commented: “This is a great opportunity for these children. When I was at school, nothing like this existed.

“At school one day the teacher put on a video of the Tour de France.

“I went home and asked my mum and dad to buy me a bike, and that decision affected the course of the rest of my life.

“Hopefully, this opportunity to get involved in competitive sport might lead to one of these children looking back in 10 years’ time and remembering where their own journey began.

“This well help their development so much, not only in sport, but socially and academically. It has a massive impact.”

Panathlon delivers competitive sport to over 10,000 young disabled people every academic year, giving them opportunities they are often denied in mainstream education.

The first-ever Panathlon North Divisional Final was made possible by the support of St James’s Place Foundation.