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It was lovely to see the children skipping back into school on Tuesday – and the start of the new year was the ideal time to get everyone thinking about all the things we plan to do better or differently this year. Getting fit is always the nation’s number one pledge for January, with gym owners rubbing their hands together at the flurry of new memberships. So, the first week of term was the perfect time to invite to Highgate Primary a local resident called Dan Thompson.

Dan is a man who likes to set himself a sporting challenge. A few years ago, he set himself the task of having a go at every conceivable sport, team and individual, of which there are quite a few…

There are one or two differing views as to what makes a sport a sport, rather than a pastime. My favourite definition is that a sport requires the participant to change their shoes. This actually works quite well; think football boots, cycling shoes, horse-riding boots or skis – or at least taking them off – swimming, judo, gymnastics. By this definition, darts and chess are clearly not sports. However, the definition that Dan went with was to participate in, not only every Olympic sport, but every Paralympic sport as well.

The thing that made this challenge even more challenging is that Dan, by his own account, is a relatively modest sportsman. There’s a great YouTube clip of Dan struggling to get to grips with a forward roll in preparation for his gymnastics floor routine; looking absolutely terrified preparing for a high dive and getting very excited about clearing a height of about 7cm, with a pole vault.

Anyway, not one to rest on his laurels, having taken part in all 109 events, Dan has thrown himself into his next challenge – to complete a 10k run. Whilst this might sound fairly modest, the added bit of detail is to do so in every country in the world – a total of 206 countries, all in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

With 166 countries under his belt, Dan came to Highgate Primary last week to lead a morning assembly in which he promoted the benefits of sport and physical activity, before taking every one of our children from Year 1 to Year 6 on a 1k run – four times around the entire playground.

As well as being really good fun, the message for me was that if you set yourself a challenge and stick with it, chipping away bit by bit, then anything is possible.

Whatever you plan to do this year, spare a thought for Dan who in February will be running in Mali, Burkino Faso, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. We wish him well!

Dan’s Gold Challenge


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