Pupils from a girls’ school in Manchester were treated to a surprise visit from Paralympic gold-medal backstroke swimmer, Jonathan Fox.

The swimmer swapped the pool for the playground as he visited the school to get the pupils and staff involved with fundraising for this year’s Sport Relief campaign. The visit marked the return of Sport Relief to schools across the UK, which this year is taking place across a whole week from 17th to 23rd March.

Of his visit to Manchester High’s Preparatory Department he commented: “I train just down the road from the school at the Manchester Aquatics Centre so it’s been brilliant to meet some of my closest supporters. I really hope I’ve inspired the girls with tales of my journey to gold medal success.

“That said, and it may sound cheesy, but I really do believe in the age-old adage that, ‘…it’s the taking part that counts’. It’s crucial we get this message across to children so they feel confident to just get their kit on and get involved. You don’t have to win a gold medal to feel both the physical and mental health benefits that sport provides.”

A backstroke specialist, Jonathan was born with cerebral palsy but has never let his disability be a barrier to success. He won Great Britain’s first gold medal in the pool at the London Paralympics in 2012 and, following a two-year layoff with a shoulder injury, he made a triumphant return to the circuit in 2016 to claim silver medals at the Rio games and the IPC Swimming European Championships.

Eight year-old pupil, Sophia Novoselov from Didsbury said: “It was brilliant meeting Jonathan today and getting to wear his gold medal. His visit has really made me think about what I want to achieve in my PE lessons and I’m going to start by completing the Sport Relief mile in a great time with a big smile on my face.”

Mrs Helen Mortimer, Head of the Preparatory Department at Manchester High said: “As well as doing our bit for charity, Sport Relief is always a fantastic opportunity for us to encourage our pupils to get, and stay, active.

“Sport is a vital part of life here at Manchester High and not just for the naturally athletic. It is important for all girls to develop physical confidence at school and we encourage everyone to participate. The variety of what we offer means every girl can find an activity they enjoy, from traditional sports such as swimming and hockey, to less mainstream activities such as taekwondo and fencing.”

This year, Sport Relief is teaming up with The Daily Mile Foundation to encourage children to be more physically active every day and get fit for life. The Daily Mile encourages primary-aged children to run or walk for 15 minutes every day which has been credited with improving the physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing of children across the UK and beyond.

14,000 schools, nurseries and youth groups took part in Sport Relief 2016. For more information on how your school can get active and fundraise for this year’s Sport Relief, go to sportrelief.com.


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