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Paralympic champion goes back to classroom

Posted onPosted on 27th Sep

Mansfield Paralympic kayaking champion Charlotte Henshaw went back to the classroom to share her Tokyo success with her former schools.

Charlotte, who is also the double world champion, visited St Patrick’s Catholic Primary and All Saints’ Catholic Voluntary Academy, along with the Mayor of Mansfield, Andy Abrahams.

In recognition of her latest achievements, the mayor surprised Charlotte by presenting an engraved shield named The Charlotte Henshaw Award for her to give to each school. They will be awarded annually in recognition of a pupil’s achievements.

Charlotte won gold when she clocked up a Paralympic best time of 50.760 seconds in the KL2 kayak race in Tokyo. Just 11 days later she twice won gold in the KL2 and VL3 200m at the World Championships in Copenhagen.

The Paralympic gold means the former swimmer now has a complete set — adding to the swimming silver and bronze she won in the pool at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Charlotte, who was joined at St Patrick’s by one of her biggest supporters — her mother, Rosie — took a paddle and her Paralympic gold medal, which is made from material recycled from electronic devices donated by people in Japan, to show staff and pupils.

She told the children that her immediate feeling after crossing the finish line first in Tokyo was one of relief and excitement followed by hunger and realising she had sore muscles. She said her time on the podium went so fast that she wished Great Britain’s national anthem was longer.

Charlotte, who confirmed she’d love to compete in the Paris Paralympics 2024, answered questions about her sporting achievements and life as an athlete. She talked about the importance of working hard academically even when you are into sport.

The sporting star revealed her favourite subject at school was English and her favourite film was Moulin Rouge, as well as Disney films and musicals.

“You always want to inspire people and it was really important for me to go back to my former schools. I hope that what I had to say has informed, helped or inspired them in some way,” said Charlotte.

“Even the youngest children asked really insightful questions. One amusing question came from a teenager who wanted to know what weight I can benchpress in the gym. I think I impressed them with the answer!”

Children at St Patrick’s gave Charlotte a handmade congratulations card decorated with personal messages, while GCSE and A-Level PE students at All Saints’ asked for autographs and posed for photos.

Charlotte signed souvenir postcards, which were given to the schools to give to selected pupils as a memento of her visit.

Mayor Andy said: “Charlotte is a fantastic athlete, winning Paralympic medals in not one but two very different sports.

“She’s an inspirational role model for our young people, particularly girls, and as a council we are keen to mark her most recent success in ways that will hopefully inspire children to realise that, with hard work and determination, they too can reach the very top.”

St Patrick’s head teacher Jane Smedley, who taught Charlotte at the school 24 years ago, has followed her achievements over the years and set her alarm for 3am to watch the Tokyo race.

She said the children and staff were captivated by the visit.

All Saints’ head Carlo Cuomo added: “It was very humbling and exciting to welcome an ex-student into school who is the best in the world in their chosen field.

“The students had some very pertinent questions about Charlotte’s life as an athlete, how she’s overcome great adversity and how she manages the mental challenges of competing at the top level.

“We focus a lot on aspiration, having a goal and the importance of being resilient and Charlotte spoke really eloquently about that.

“It’s really helpful for the students to meet an ex-student who embodies all those key messages that we as teachers try to give.”