Paralympians cheer on Hackney schoolchildren at sports day

With just 50 days to go to the Paralympic Games, children tried out Paralympic sports in Hackney this week, cheered on by GB Paralympians.

Over 3,000 pupils from Olympic host borough schools, some as young as three, took part in Hackney Schools’ Sports Championships in Stoke Newington where they competed in wheelchair basketball and goalball amongst other Paralympic sports.

Swimmer Elaine Barrett, who won gold in visually impaired breaststroke at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, presented children with their medals on Tuesday.

Elaine, who grew up in Stoke Newington, returned to the pool at Clissold Leisure Centre in which she begun her training to speak about her experiences in front of 450 children.

Wheelchair basketball player Tyler Saunders and 2012 wheelchair racing hopeful Nikki Emerson were amongst other Paralympians to visit during the five-day sports event organised by the Learning Trust.

Lead organiser of the event Aneurin Wood said: “It’s about inclusion and community cohesion and to give non-disabled pupils in Hackney an understanding of what it is like to be a young person with a disability who wants to compete in sport.

“To have the Paralympic athletes come along each day shows them that despite having a disability they are able to get to the top of their sport.

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“Children love the sports. We have had them come up to us and say ‘how much does a wheelchair cost because I want to play wheelchair basketball?’”

Mr Wood, who has spina bifida and hydrocephalus which reduces his mobility, founded the games in 2008 to stop other young people facing difficulties he encountered.

Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe said: “In Hackney we wanted the Olympics and Paralympics to inspire the next generation of budding sports stars and give everyone who wanted it the opportunity to try out new sports. These Championships embody that aim.

“I hope that competing in the presence of a Paralympic gold medallist might further inspire another Hackney champion of the future.”