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Teacher Anthony finds fast track to success.

Anthony Hamilton has run a world record and a school department despite bad sight

`I have been humbled by some of the athletes I have met. They make you realise how lucky you are'

By Clare McVey

STEPPING OUT... marathon man Anthony Hamilton practises his running in the grounds of Lordswood Boys' School PICTURES BY: Ed Maynard

IN CHARGE... Anthony in his role as geography teacher

ANTHONY Hamilton is proud of what he has achieved in his life so far.

At the age of 29 he has a world record under his belt and has risen to head a department at a comprehensive school.

But Anthony's achievements are all the more amazing when you discover he's partially-sighted.

A former pupil of Exhall Grange School for the disabled in Coventry, Anthony was born with a genetic disorder that affected his eyesight.

But he didn't let that stop him becoming a Paralympic runner with two gold medals. Nor did it stop him becoming a senior teacher in an inner-city comprehensive.

While his parents both had perfect eyesight Anthony inherited nystagmus from his grandfather. The condition skipped a generation but also affected his elder brother, Andrew.

The disability means that his vision is blurred and fuzzy beyond a few metres, so he is not able to drive. Glasses have helped him to a certain extent but no corrective surgery or treatment is yet available.

Going to an ordinary state school would have been a problem as he could not have read what was written on the board. So Anthony came from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to board at Exhall Grange.

He still has connections with the school as his wife Susan, aged 33, works as a physiotherapy assistant there.

He believes it was his eight years at the recently nominated beacon school that set him up for life. Not surprisingly, Anthony is himself held up as a beacon at Exhall, which has 190 pupils.

Sheila Carey, head of sports at Exhall, said: "Anthony is one of our hall of fame at the school. He is one of a number of former pupils who act as real role models for our children."

Anthony said: "All the students at Exhall were really encouraged to achieve their full potential. No-one was allowed to slack off because of their disability.

"In some ways I think we were pushed harder than many ordinary children. We were told we could achieve the good results the school had a reputation for.

"We were encouraged to take part in sports and athletics and there were lots of opportunities with after-school clubs.

"It gave me a real launch pad for everything I've gone on to do."

Indeed, in 1988, the year he gained three A-levels, Anthony represented Britain at the Seoul Paralympics. He came back with gold medals in the 800m and 1500m - breaking the world record for the latter.

He followed this up four years later by bringing home bronze from Barcelona, for the 1500m.

Earlier on this year he ran his first London Marathon and now has his sights set on the New York Marathon in November.

He says he rarely has a problem bumping into things when he's running because he sticks to familiar routes.

He said: "The only time I have a problem when I'm running is if I'm confidently pounding a familiar route and then suddenly someone has dug up the pavement or left a gate open. Then I might come a cropper."

After his first teaching job at The Woodlands school in Coventry, he took up his position as head of geography at Lordswood Boys' School, Harborne, Birmingham.

Anthony said that, although as a child he couldn't attend an ordinary comprehensive, he has no problem teaching in one. In fact, what the young teacher achieved on the running track he has mimicked in the classroom.

When he arrived at the 670-pupil school 18 months ago the percentage of students achieving GCSE grades A* to C in geography was 20 per cent. This year that figure had shot up to 67 per cent.

Head teacher John Gardner said: "Anthony has worked very hard to improve the standards of achievement in geography. The boys very much enjoy his lessons. He doesn't talk about his sporting achievements much but I think they are aware of them."

Anthony is now pounding the streets near his home in Coventry in preparation for his next challenge.

He is hoping his to raise around pounds 3,000 in for the Spinal Injuries Association when he runs in New York on November 1.

He said he was drawn to their work by some of the people he met at the Paralympics. He saw how the organisation had helped people adjust - and achieve so much - after suffering paralysing injuries.

He said: "I am trying to do something to make a difference to other people's lives. But I have been humbled by some of the athletes I have met. They make you realise how lucky you are."

Do you know someone who has overcome all odds to pursue a chosen career? Write now to: Talkabout, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Birmingham, B4 6AZ.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 27, 1998
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