A former Paddington Academy student, Ara Shikalislami, has become Captain of Warwick University Polo team. Last month, he led his team to victory at the Winter Nationals, the largest competition in the world, at Rugby Polo Club. The Warwick University team were competing against 29 other universities, and scored victories against Oxford, London and Birmingham in the final.
Ara has undergone a remarkable journey to success as he has only taken up Polo since starting this year at Warwick University. Despite only playing for 5 months, and never having ridden a horse previously, Ara quickly picked up the sport and soon became the team’s captain. He trained with Warwick at Offchurch Bury Polo Club and also took lessons at Ascot Park Polo Club. He has thrown himself into the sport with characteristic enthusiasm and determination and has also recently been elected to the Warwick Polo Club Executive Committee.
During his time at Paddington Academy, Ara was a committed and industrious student and his A Level results placed him as one of the highest achievers at the Academy. This summer, he gained an A* in Maths, an A in Physics and a B Further Maths A Levels and gained a place at Warwick to study Engineering. Oli Tomlinson, Principal of Paddington Academy said “Ara represents everything that is best about Paddington Academy: its students and the transformation of their life chances through hard work and the support of their dedicated teachers. I am delighted that Ara is seizing the wealth of opportunities and experiences that university affords him”.
Ara’s family were Kurdish refugees who fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980s to move to London. Growing up on the tough Mozart Estate, there were few opportunities for Ara to play Polo, known as ‘the sport of kings’. His story is a powerful example of social mobility and how there are no barriers to success when hard work, ambition and determination are involved. Ara said “I had never been on a horse before Warwick and saw the Polo stall at the Sports Fair and thought I should try out a different sport that I had no access to while living in London. I have met a very different group of people by being involved in the sport and it is great fun ”.