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Our Club: Orwell Panthers Athletics

PUBLISHED: 14:44 14 October 2013 | UPDATED: 14:44 14 October 2013

The Orwell Panthers Athletic team who won at Harlow on 20th April 2013

The Orwell Panthers Athletic team who won at Harlow on 20th April 2013

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Nicola Carton meets up with the Orwell Panthers, an athletics club for people with disabilities

Tell us about the club . . .

“Fun in athletics however able”, so goes the motto of the Orwell Panthers, an inclusive athletics club that invites people with all kinds of disabilities to participate in sports, either for fun or for serious competition.

Ten years ago a team of enthusiastic coaches, including Mitzi Reed, Margaret Nicholls and Ann Negus, identified a gap in the local sporting provision for people with disabilities. Recognising the enormous benefits of sport for all they set up a summer club with a single member, Peter Barkley, and the Orwell Panthers Athletics Club was born.

From these humble beginnings the club has grown in stature. With the expertise of member Mike Oakley, the club became affiliated to the Suffolk County Athletic Association, the South of England Athletic Association and UK Athletics. Since 2004 the Orwell Panthers have been recognised as a fully constituted athletics club catering for athletes with disabilities. All coaches are professionally trained and accredited through United Kingdom Athletics.

The club is open to participants over the age of ten with any type of physical, learning or sensory disability whether mild, moderate or severe. The Panthers pride themselves on having no barriers to participation. All they ask is that members have an interest in sports or the potential to develop that interest.

The club has had many significant successes and is justifiably proud of athlete Oliver Minns who became the National Champion at javelin, 400m and long jump. When asked about what he gets out of the Panthers, Oliver’s response typifies the spirit of the club: “I enjoy seeing others improve week by week”. This outlook is shared by the club’s coaches including Margaret Nicholls who says she is inspired by seeing the way the athletes encourage one another.

Indeed, success at the club is not just measured in terms of trophies won or records broken. Improvements in confidence, concentration and personal achievement are just as valued as gold, silver and bronze medals. When an athlete enjoys taking part and strives to reach their own goals and personal potential, everybody is thrilled.

How can I get involved?

It is the 10th anniversary of the Orwell Panthers inauguration and they are especially keen to welcome new members and their families.

If you, or a family member, are interested in joining as an athlete or as a volunteer then you can come along to one of the Wednesday training sessions held 6:30-8pm at Northgate Sports Centre. Athletes pay £32 membership fee per year and £2 per training session attended. However, you can attend three training sessions before you are required to pay the membership fee.

Where do I sign up?

Contact Margaret Nicholls and she can make sure that there is a warm welcome for you on your first visit. Telephone +44 (0)1473 411639 or email

Visit the website:


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