Paralympic star Tim Prendergast spent the day with students from Wisdom School in Haringey sharing his story of how mental toughness helped him come to terms with losing his sight and go on to win a gold medal.
Fresh from competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games where he set a new personal best in the 800m T13 final, New Zealand-born Prendergast is now harnessing his success as an athlete to encourage secondary school students not to let disability or disadvantages in life hold them back.
It is a lesson learned as a youngster when aged just eight he began to lose his sight. He was a keen cricketer with aspirations to become a professional sportsman, pilot or doctor.
Prendergast progressed into a mainstream secondary school and transferred his love of cricket to running, refusing to let blindness hold him back. He said: “Running gave me a whole new identity. On the track I progressed from the back of the pack to the one leading from the front and that changed my entire attitude towards myself and my disability.
“I stopped pigeonholing myself as the only blind kid at school and instead focused on my future as an athlete.”
In 2004 he won a gold medal in the 800m at the Athens Paralympic Games.
Now working as an athlete mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport, a secondary school initiative, Prendergast hopes to inspire both able and disabled students in his adopted hometown of London.
Sky Sports Living for Sport is designed to empower students and uses the British Athletes Commission’s ‘Six Keys to Success’, which include mental toughness, hunger to achieve, people skills, sports and life knowledge, breaking barriers and planning for success, to help them achieve their own life goals.
Prendergast said: “Visiting secondary schools in my role as an athlete mentor gives me the opportunity to share my story and encourage students to focus on what they can do in life, not what they can’t. It’s one of the most important lessons I ever learned and one that I was forced to face due to my disability.
“Having the resilience to accept my situation and not let it hold me back was key to the success that I went on to achieve and that’s the message I hope I conveyed to students at Wisdom School.”