Disabled Newham teenager overcomes odds for Jack Petchey nomination

The Panathlon Challenge - Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Awards 2015. Vivian Onyia with Liz Jo

The Panathlon Challenge - Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Awards 2015. Vivian Onyia with Liz Johnson (left) and Lauren Petchey. Picture: Andrew Fosker / Seconds Left Images for Panathlon - Credit: Andrew Fosker/Seconds Left

A teenager whose condition has left her unable to speak has been recognised for her astonishing sporting success.

Newham College sixth-former Vivian Onyia was one of just three runner-ups for the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award last month.

The gong, presented by triple Paralympic medallist Liz Johnson in the Olympic Suite in Stratford, acknowledged the former St Angela Ursuline pupil’s exceptional contribution to the Panathlon Challenge.

The ‘mini Paralympics’ competition involves around 7,500 young people nationwide each year.

“It’s a really nice way for Vivian to demonstrate how dedicated she has been during her time at St Angela’s and it’s good for her to leave on such a high positive note,” said St Angela’s Ursuline headteacher, Leigh Stevens.

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“Panathlon has helped Vivian become so much more confident. She was such a shy little girl and she’s now so much more.”

Vivian, 17, suffers from a form of cerebral palsy that affects the muscles around the mouth a throat, making it difficult for her to speak. Despite this she has overcome struggles with Worster Drought Syndrome to embrace the Panathlon Challenge, becoming an integral part of the relay team and proved an inspiration to younger students.

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As well as winning gold medals in both long jump and sprinting, she quickly joined in a number of other school activities, including an athletics club, whilst also getting involved in different sports outside of school, including cheerleading, football and cricket.

“Vivian has come an extremely long way in not just her sporting abilities, but these successes are what have driven her confidence and social skills,” added Mr Stevens.

“She now makes herself understood by using hand gestures and sounding out words from her throat and has recently began to learn sign language, developing into a confident individual who is always smiling.”

Since 1999, the Panathlon Challenge has run over 500 ‘mini Paralympic’ multi-sport competitions for secondary or primary school children, along with dedicated football, boccia and swimming programmes. Panathlon has also trained over 3,000 young leaders, aged 14-19, who act as sports officials for Panathlon competitions. Go to panathlon.com to find out more.

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