Disability sport heroes were crowned at an inspirational Active Essex Sports Awards 2018 which celebrated sporting achievements from grassroots to professional level.
Double Olympic gymnastics champion Max Whitlock was on hand to help recognise individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to sport and physical activity in Greater Essex over the past 12 months.
Team GB Paralympian Freya Levy was crowned Disabled Sports Personality of the Year at the glittering ceremony at Chelmsford City Racecourse earlier this month. The award – one of three categories decided by public vote – celebrates athletes who have made a significant impact in the last year at a national or international level, either individually or in a team.
Freya Levy, of Rochford, has represented her country as part of the Team GB Wheelchair Basketball Team, England Wheelchair Rugby Sevens, and Team GB Para Ice Hockey. In Rugby Sevens, Freya scored her first international try on her debut game in France in April.
She said: “It was an amazing feeling to have won. It was down to a public vote and I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me – friends, family and people who I’ve never met before. It means the world to be recognised by my local community.
“Active Essex has done another great job this year for disability sport, with some great work with the All Together Ambassadors and across social media – really pushing that message of the importance of getting involved in sport, whether you’ve got a disability or not. A lot of Active Essex’s campaigns have been influential in terms of getting people involved in sport.”
Elsewhere, Sport for Confidence, a nationally-acclaimed organisation which fuses local health and sport sectors to tackle inequalities in sport and physical activity participation, won the Services to Inclusive Sport award.
Based in Basildon, the organisation places health professionals in leisure centres directly alongside sports coaches and leisure centre staff to make adjustments that create truly accessible and inclusive sport and physical activity opportunities.
Fitness in Mind, an organisation based in Brentwood, took home the Changing Lives through Sport and Physical Activity award. Fitness In Mind is designed to promote, encourage and provide physical activity as an aid to mental wellbeing – and has helped over 1,350 people from 20 districts.
Meanwhile, Max Whitlock, a previous multiple winner at the awards ceremony, stepped to the other side of the podium this year to present the Young Personality of the Year award to Freestyle Kayak World Youth Champion Ottilie Robinson-Shaw.
Max said: “It is very important to celebrate all aspects of sport and physical activity across our county, and I’d like to congratulate all the winners and finalists. Here’s to another 12 months of well-deserved success, at both a grassroots and professional stage.”
Now in their 11th year, the awards recognise the people, clubs, organisations and volunteers who make sport and fitness accessible to people across Greater Essex. The awards are part of an ongoing commitment by Active Essex to change one million lives by getting more people around Essex active.
The awards, which took place on December 5, were presented by Heart FM’s breakfast show presenter, Su Harrison, and Active Essex board member Steve Mitchell. A full list of winners can be found below.
Azeem Akhtar, Chair of Active Essex said: “The 2018 Active Essex Sports Awards proved to be another huge success and I’d like to congratulate all the winners and finalists for their hard work and dedication. I hope these awards will inspire more people to get active in disability sport across the region.”