A TEAM of disabled children from Swindon took pride in representing their county in the Central Region Final of the Panathlon Challenge – a ‘mini Paralympics’ for children.

With British number one ranked wheelchair athlete Richard Chiassaro watching on, the team of pupils from Brimble Hill, Uplands and Crowdys Hill Schools – who won the Wiltshire Panathlon to qualify for the event – battled it out with teams from Buckingham-shire, Northants and Oxford-shire in the regional final of the multi-sport competition at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Paul Searle, a teacher at Brimble Hill School.

“They were singing on the bus all the way here and it will be the same on the way back.

“They are participating, improving their social skills, the all-round experience is great.

“I’d love for all their parents to come along and see what this is all about.”

After a consistent performance throughout, including a silver medal in the athletics field events and bronzes in boccia, table cricket and polybat – Panathlon sports played with adaptive equipment to make them more accessible – Wiltshire went into the final event of the day within reach of a podium finish.

After a thrilling set of relay races, the team were edged into fourth place, but the competitors still went home happy and proud.

Eleven-year-old Charlie Hammond of Crowdys Hill said his favourite Panathlon sport is new age kurling – a derivative of the traditional winter ice sport that can be played indoors. With a brightly coloured target and ‘stones’ on wheels, plus a ramp which players can use to launch their shot, new age kurling is accessible to competitors with a range of disabilities, from visually impaired players to wheelchair users, which means it fits in perfectly at Panathlon.

“You have to aim and knock the others out. It’s really good,” said Charlie, who also played in the precision bean bag throw, helping his team to a silver medal in the athletic field events, their best result of the day.

Panathlon is a national charity which provides sporting opportunities for over 4,000 disabled young people across the country each year.

In Wiltshire, 53 young people from five schools took part in Panathlon in 2013/14, with 260 active hours of sport provided to disabled children across the county.

Panathlon ambassador Richard said: “It’s been a brilliant day. These regional finals have been at such a high standard, with county winners all coming together to compete at the next level.

“It’s great to see everyone getting the chance to compete on a level playing field and the kids have all loved it. The atmosphere has been terrific.”

The 15-strong Wiltshire team, which included children with a range of severe learning difficulties and autism, won the Wiltshire Panathlon final in June to book their place in the inaugural Central Region final – where they faced three county champions in one of a new series of ‘best of the best’ Panathlon regional finals that raises the standard for all participants.