Panathlon celebrates a record-breaking year

More young people with impairments and special educational needs than ever before have competed in Panathlon competitions during 2016-17. A 30 per cent rise from the previous academic year.

Children cheering at Panathlon event

Their ever-expanding calendar of competitions enabled over 13,000 ‘unique’ competitors to engage in competitive sport, up from just over 10,000 in 2015-16.

The overall total of disabled competitors across all our events was 15,024, compared to 12,427 the year before.

There were 2,190 trained Young Leaders officiating at Panathlon events – an increase of 37 per cent – meaning the total number of participants (both leaders and competitors) was 17,214, a rise of 22 per cent from 2015-16.

These figures reflect the growth of all Panathlon’s programmes across England, with more schools than ever entering more competitions, which have expanded into new areas of the country.

The leap in the number of schools taking part was significant – up 44 per cent from 563 in 2015-16 to 812. The number of events also increased massively, with 305 competitions and training days, compared to 240 the previous year.

The ‘Panathlon nation’ expanded into six new counties in the past academic year too, each one giving more young disabled people their first chance to experience Panathlon competitions. That made a total of 33 participating counties and already several more newcomers are on our provisional calendar for next year.

Our competitive pathway of events is what marks our provision out from traditional ‘come and try’ sporting activities for young disabled people. Progressing from local Panathlon events to County, Regional and Divisional Finals is a key motivator for competitors engaging with our programme.

Last year the number of Regional Finals we staged across England rose from 12 to 24, giving many more youngsters an aspirational pathway of events to progress through by improving their own performances.

Panathlon Ambassador and Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer Liz Johnson, said:

“To see Panathlon reaching new milestones and engaging an ever-expanding number of young people is wonderful. If it weren’t for Panathlon, many of these youngsters would not get the opportunity to take part in sport, let alone try out such a variety of different sports, represent their school, area or county and aspire to progress through a competitive pathway.”

Another Panathlon Ambassador, Sam Hynd, also a Paralympic gold medallist in Beijing in 2008, commented:

“These kids are very lucky to have these opportunities. I never had any of this when I was younger; I had to join an able-bodied swimming club and make the best of it. Panathlon’s inclusive, high-profile events are just priceless for these children.”

The Panathlon Challenge is a national charity which provides sporting opportunities for over 13,000 disabled young people each year. To find out more about their work, visit the Panathlon website.

Photo credit: Panathlon