There’s just one month to go until the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games where Essex will be showing off its home-grown sporting talent.
With individuals from across the county representing Team GB in a range of different disciplines, Active Essex - the County Sports Partnership (CSP) - is hoping more local people will be inspired to take up competitive sport.
Essex athletes currently on the Road to Rio include Fiona Pennie, Olympic Canoe Slalom Kayaker, from Epping Forest. Fiona has been supported on her journey to Rio through Active Essex’s ‘Inspired Athletes’ scheme which provides funding to support training and competitions.
Currently one of Britain’s most experienced women's K1 slalom kayakers, this will be Fiona’s second Olympic Games after competing in Beijing in 2008.
Fiona said: “I’m very excited and honoured to have a shot at my second Olympic Games and have learnt a great deal since competing in Beijing.
“Being supported by Active Essex as an Inspired Athlete has been a key part of my selection for Rio; the financial support has allowed me to fund my day to day training and most importantly I have been able to buy a sufficient amount of kit to paddle in all weathers.
“I am extremely proud to represent my country next month and hope my Olympic story inspires many more young people in Essex to start their own sporting journey.”
Rebecca Gallantree from Chelmsford will also head to Rio this summer to compete in the women’s 3m springboard diving.
The Chelmsford born diver who trains in Leeds, took Gold in the team event at the 2015 World Championships after teaming up with British diver, Tom Daley.
Gary Sullivan OBE, Chair of Active Essex, said: “It’s fantastic to see the county so well-represented at this year’s Olympic Games and incredibly positive to see individuals who have been supported by Active Essex throughout their journey to Rio.
“This is not only testament to the talent pool we have in the county but also to the grass-roots sports system; Essex has volunteers and coaches who give hours of their time to help athletes maximise their talent and enjoy the benefits of being physically active.”
Active Essex plays a strong role in ensuring that national governing bodies, local authorities and education providers play key parts in encouraging local people to take part in sport and physical activity and in addition to the Inspired Athletes scheme provides grant funding to support the FANS (Free Access for National Sportspeople) scheme which enables free access to local training facilities.
Other athletes competing next month include Colchester-born Saskia Clarke - winner of the Active Essex Sports Personality of the Year Award 2015 - who will take part in the 470 Class Sailing, and Dominic King, also from Colchester who will represent Team GB in the 50K walk.
In addition to preparing for the Games, athletes give back to the community by visiting schools, groups and organisations to inspire people to be more physically active and take part in sport.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Sport and Physical Activity, said: “The role that sport and physical activity plays within Essex schools is hugely important in developing pupils’ long term activity levels, improving their attainment and encouraging team-work.
“The recent Special School and School Games showcased up and coming talent across 30 different sports and it’s great to see pupils’ enthusiasm and confidence increase when participating.
“Essex County Council is extremely proud of everyone heading to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games this year and recognises the importance of sporting role models in inspiring a new generation of Olympic athletes – good luck to Team GB.”