Paralympians enjoy 'amazing' experience inspiring the next generation at Aylesbury school

Team GB were in town after another hugely successful Paralympic games, achieving a staggering medal haul at Tokyo 2020.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 3:03 pm
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 3:00 pm

A host of Team GB's medal-winning Paralympians were in Aylesbury today (9 September) after bringing home another huge medal haul at Tokyo 2021.

The athletes painted Stoke Mandeville gold in celebration and also stopped by at Booker Park School to discuss the value of sport with the next generation.

The athletes were sent to the birthplace of the Paralympics, Stoke Mandeville, to paint the village gold in celebration.

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Tom Hamer at Brooker Park School

Once again Britain's sporting stars were among the best in the world, returning 124 medals in total. British athletes won 41 gold medals in Tokyo, finishing second in the overall table, trailing only China, beating out sporting giants the United States.

As part of a Virgin Media #WeAreHere project promoting the Paralympics, the athletes have given on-street cabinets in Stoke Mandeville a golden upgrade.

The golden cabinets can be found on Harvey Road and Mandeville Road, nearby to Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

GB swimmer, Tom Hamer, discussed the 'amazing' experience he had talking at the primary school which looks after children with learning difficulties.

The 23-year-old said to the Bucks Herald: "The Paralympic movement is growing. Everyone was behind us. So, coming to a school and giving back is what the Paralympic cycle is all about.

"It's the British public who are supporting us, helping to fund us. So we have to come back and help our communities.

"Speaking at the school was amazing. I know what it's like being one of the kids where you're maybe not the best at school, but they are so knowledgeable and interested in sport.

"If you put a history book in front of me, I won't be able to learn from it. I don't find that interesting, but then sport was always something I was interested in and took enjoyment from. And they're the same.

"You start talking to them about sport and they light up. One was going 'oh my mum takes me swimming', another went 'oh I love cycling'. They were really engaged and thoughtful they asked some really interesting questions that adults wouldn't think to ask."

Tom qualifies for the Paralympics due to his own learning difficulties, the governing body lists 'intellectual impairment' in his official categorisation.

Tom says he doesn't see his impairment as a disability and more that his brain just works in a different way, and is receptive to different things.

It is for this reason he took such pride speaking to like-minded pupils in Aylesbury. He added: "Sport isn't really about medals and championships.

"It's all about enjoying it. Teaching these kids about having fun. Playing sport to make friends at school."

Of the five Paralympians who returned to the inspirational Centre Tom was the only one who didn't compete at Tokyo 2020.

A last minute back injury meant he wasn't able to take the plunge, but speaking to him just two weeks after he was ruled out, you'd never have known it.

Tom said: "This injury will only make me a stronger person when I'm on that platform in Paris. [Competing at the 2024 games].

"I've gone through hell and come out of it mentally and physically stronger. It's a blessing. It's only going to make me better. I've had to deal with getting injured at the end of a five-year cycle and coming second by 13 hundredths of a second in Rio.

"I was actually falling out-of-love with swimming, but now this will give me that kick up the backside, I needed. I'm the underdog again. I haven't competed in a professional swimming race in two years.

"There's a saying in elite sport, 'it is easy to make it to the top, but it's a lot harder to stay there'. When everyone is chasing you and you have that pressure. Well, now I'm chasing again and that is what I like."

As well as being moved by the children at Booker Park School, Tom was taken aback by the support he received painting in Stoke Mandeville.

Tom said: "It was amazing painting the golden box, every five minutes people were coming up and cheering. Showing support, asking for pictures.

"The response was amazing, seeing the awareness people have for the Paralympic movement."

Jody Cundy, Phoebe Paterson Pine, Steph Reid and Ali Jawad were the other Paralympians painting in Stoke Mandeville.