STUDENTS at The Highcrest Academy were this week among the first people outside of Russia to see the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Torch.

The school in Hatters Lane, High Wycombe, welcomed the arrival of torch on Tuesday when elite wheelchair athlete Chris Rattenbury gave a talk to around 200 students.

Chris, a powerlifter from Bucks, attended as an ambassador for WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, based at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

WheelPower was sent the torch as part of its education project in Buckinghamshire to teach children how Paralympic sport can transform the lives of disabled people.

The question-and-answer session was one of dozens of school visits that the charity is carrying out before the upcoming Winter Games on March 7 – but The Highcrest Academy was one of the first to see the torch which only arrived in the UK last week.

Pupils from years 11, 12 and 13, learnt about the different Winter Paralympic athletes, events, and the Heritage Flame Lighting which happens at Stoke Mandeville Stadium on March 1.

Emma Bowden, Assistant Headteacher, said: "Chris is very good at telling his inspirational story and engaging the students. It was an interesting eye-opener for them and has caused much discussion on what can be achieved when you put your mind to it."

Chris is a wheelchair user with Spina Bifida. His personal best of 171kg is a British powerlifting record which is over double his bodyweight. He reached a career best of 3rd in the world rankings in 2013, and he hopes to represent England in this year’s Commonwealth Games.

WheelPower’s Education Manager, Ollie Moore, said: "The design of the Sochi Paralympic Torch symbolises the strength of character inherent in the Paralympic movement. The message WheelPower are sharing with the local community is that, sport enables disabled people to live a healthy active and independent lifestyle which can completely transform lives."