West Essex’s sporting champions

PUBLISHED: 15:02 07 April 2020

Essex caters for all sports

Essex caters for all sports


Missing your live sport? Here we find out what sports really means to the county of Essex

Danny CrouchDanny Crouch

The Pride of Essex Sports Awards 2020 might be on temporary hold, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the county’s sporting prowess. Here we speak to three of last year’s attendees, including previous winner Danny Crouch, award-presenter Ronnie Irani, and the late Justin Edinburgh’s son, Charlie, about the importance of sports in our community.

Danny Crouch – winner of Young Sports Person of the Year 2019

When I was nominated for the Young Sports Person of the Year award, I felt extremely proud that my efforts had been recognised especially since gymnastics tends to not be as popular as other sports. I was up against some very talented young sports people and it was an honour to win and have the award presented to me by football legend, Joe Cole.

For the last three years in a row I have held both the title of British under 14 champion in artistic gymnastics and the English under 14 all-round champion. Over the last few years, I have had the honour of representing GB and have been extremely successful having won many international titles. Last year, when I was just 13 years old, I was selected for the GB under 16 and 18 team and won silver and gold respectively and I have been selected for the Junior European squad. My long-term goals for the future are to attend the Olympic Games in 2024 and 2028. I not only want to go but I aim to win an Olympic medal, preferably gold.

My success has been greatly aided by my wonderful support system at home, both my parents and grandparents have been my biggest supporters. They have taken me to and from training, lifted my spirits when times have been tough and kept me grounded when I have won. Additionally, I am grateful to the team at South Essex Gymnastics Club, my amazing coaches Anthony Wise and Olympic Coach, Scott Hann, both push me to be better. I get to train alongside double Olympic champion, Max Whitlock, and Olympian Brinn Bevan, who inspire me every day.

It was great to attend such a prestigious event and to have had the chance to mix with such inspirational people like Frank Lampard Snr and the late Justin Edinburgh. I think these awards are important because they support and celebrate a wide variety of Essex athletes across a multitude of sports. It makes you appreciate the talent we have in our county and all the sporting legends we have produced; it makes me want to become one of those legends myself.

Ronnie IraniRonnie Irani

Ronnie Irani – former England cricketer and award presenter

I presented the Unsung Sporting Hero award last year and when the category was put forward to me, I said yes immediately because it is close to my heart. An unsung hero is someone who dedicates their time, love and energy to the game and commits to it with a professional attitude. This doesn’t just mean players, coaches or mentors, but also the people who do things in and around sports. Like the people working the bar for free or the driver taking the team to games - they don’t do it for the recognition, but I think just because they don’t, doesn’t mean we can’t deliver some love and gratitude.

Last year’s ceremony was incredible, the turnout was phenomenal, and it just goes to show how widely loved and celebrated all different types of sports are. It’s hard to pick a highlight, but Barry Hearn’s speech about Essex was great and it really rallied everyone up!

We live in a world full of technology nowadays and I think sports are vital to our way of life because they encourage engagement and other social aspects which are hugely important to help us develop. I was privileged to play cricket professionally for 20 years and it was an honour, but it comes secondary because fundamentally I and many other sportspeople play mainly to get out and engage and because they enjoy competing.

My biggest sporting inspirations tend to be those who have inspired others. People like Vivian Richards and Ian Botham in terms of cricket, although I do admire great sporting legends of all different sports like Carl Lewis, Daley Thompson and Eric Cantona. People like that inspire me, there is a wonderful aura about them, it’s their attitude and desire to succeed.

Charlie Edinburgh at the JE3 Foundation GalaCharlie Edinburgh at the JE3 Foundation Gala

At this year’s Pride of Essex award ceremony, I am excited about my club’s team being up for an award. I’m the chairman of the committee for the Essex County Cricket Club and we have had an unbelievable year - we won the county championship and the T20. The work and effort that has gone on behind the scenes has been incredible, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Charlie Edinburgh – son of Justin Edinburgh who won Professional Sports Personality of the Year 2019 before his untimely death

For me, my biggest sporting inspiration is my Dad. He is my idol and hero in everything I do in my life, whether that is sports related or in everyday life. No task was ever too much for him and he would always give it his all. I am so grateful I could call him my Dad and my best friend.

When my Dad won the award for Professional Sports Personality last year it was a special moment, we were bursting with pride for him. The award just topped off an amazing season for him and Leyton Orient. With the unfortunate events which led to Dad’s passing in June, this was one of the last moments which we shared as a family where we could celebrate his fantastic achievements and not just in that year, but also across his successful playing and managerial career.

These awards showcase just how many sporting greats we have in the county. Whether it has been somebody who is just starting out on their journey 
in their respective sport or somebody who has already achieved many great things. I think it is important that people take notice of these awards – the next Joe Cole, Steve Davis or Justin Edinburgh could be doing great things within their sport already and it’s amazing to see their story and journey blossom.

Last year, when my Dad was in the hospital and we received the awful news that he wasn’t going to pull through, something just hit me, and I decided I couldn’t let his name and legacy be forgotten. My Dad was the type of man who was always about giving back to people and so myself, my sister and my Mum set up the Justin Edinburgh 3 Foundation to do just that. We held our inaugural JE3 Foundation Charity Ball in December to celebrate what would have been my Dad’s 50th Birthday and to launch the foundation.

Our long-term goal is to campaign for a law change called ‘Justin’s Law’ whereby it will be compulsory for all sports and health facilities across the UK to be equipped with a defibrillator. The gym that Dad was training in when he had his cardiac arrest was not equipped with a defibrillator, which can really be the difference between life and death in those early stages. We will also be rolling out CPR training courses to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to take part and learn CPR - part of our mission to train a new generation of lifesavers. We want my Dad’s case to help spread awareness and save lives in the future.

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