Students from Lowestoft celebrate success at Panathlon swimming event

Ashley School compete in Panathlon Challenge at London & South East England Swimming Finals.

Ashley School compete in Panathlon Challenge at London & South East England Swimming Finals. - Credit: Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images

A team of disabled students from The Ashley School in Lowestoft tasted Olympic Park success by coming second in the 2015 Panathlon south-east swim final at the London Aquatics Centre.

The Lowestoft team was among more than 50 disabled young people from seven schools across London and the south east competing in the first regional swim finals held by the Panathlon Challenge, dubbed as a 'mini Paralympics' for children.

The team, representing north Suffolk after winning a regional qualifier in November, beat two teams from Colchester in Essex to win silver, finishing behind eventual East of England champions the Priory School, Bury St Edmunds.

They also finished faster than three London boroughs competing in the London final for overall second place in the south east region, before collecting their trophy and medals from Paralympic swimming champion Liz Johnson.

Neil Godbold, swimming instructor at The Ashley School, said: 'It's amazing, giving these kids an opportunity to come to this place and compete. It's probably a lifetime achievement for them. This is going to stay with them for years. The kids have worked really hard. This is the same team we took to the heats.

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'We've got a team of eight swimmers and just a couple who've competed before but, other than that, this year's Panathlon was their first time competing. It's giving them an opportunity that is second to none and it's giving them a life skill to be able to swim, which not everyone can do.'

David Payne, 12, a student at The Ashley School, said: 'I'm happy. I enjoy swimming. I like competing in the races with my friends. I feel proud.'

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Panathlon provides sporting opportunities for over 6,000 disabled young people each year, across London and 26 counties nationwide.

The charity's swimming programme began in 2013 to introduce severely disabled young people to water experiences for the first time.

It was also the first event that Panathlon has hosted at the London Aquatics Centre, which was home of the swimming and diving at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Paralympic swimming champion and Panathlon ambassador Liz Johnson, said: 'To be here in the Aquatics centre at Panathlon's first ever regional swim final, I think shows how much Panathlon is growing. It was a fantastic day at a brilliant venue.'

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