INSPIRATIONAL sporting stars from across north Essex picked up awards at a ceremony.

The Active Essex Sports Awards celebrate the county’s sporting achievements from grassroots to a professional level.

Joining the celebrations and awarded with special recognition trophies were some of Essex’s household sporting names, including double Olympic gymnastics champion Max Whitlock, who recently won gold at the World Championships, and team members from Essex County Cricket who had an outstanding season.

Max went on to present the Young Sports Personality of the Year award to Ellie Challis, 15, a para-swimmer and snowboarder from Little Clacton who has already set national and world records.

Ellie was announced as Swim England’s Para-swimming talent of the year and has been selected for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

She said: “I was shocked to win the award.

“My biggest highlight this year was being selected for the World Championships and coming back with a bronze medal – when I initially went for experience.

“I’m now looking forward to the Paralympics next year and this award will certainly motivate me along the way.”

GB Colchester Bootcamp run by Gabriel Beckett won Community Club of the Year.

Gabriel said: “Sport and physical activity has helped me tremendously in tackling my own struggles with mental health and it means the world to me I can give back to the Colchester community with the bootcamp sessions and encourage more people to get active.”

Liam Winters, from Colchester, won Young Volunteer of the Year.

He is a sports and events photographer who has worked with various bootcamps and running groups in the town.

Liam, 15, said: “I am so shocked to win the award and to get recognition.

“I have a real passion for sports photography and it’s a wonderful feeling to know my photos are encouraging more people in Colchester to be active.”

The Martial Arts Centre in Braintree and Braintree BMX Club won highly commended awards for Community Club of the Year.

Sue Clarke from Braintree won highly commended for Sports Personality of the Year.

Braintree Council received highly commended for Active Workplace of the Year.

Burnham County Primary School and Clacton County High School were highly commended for Education Champion of the Year.

Charlotte Luck from Tendring and Tom Doughty from Braintree were highly commended for the Inclusive Communities Award.

George Cook from Braintree and Nina Crouchman from Colchester were highly commended for Unsung Hero.