SPORTING stars were given a rapturous welcome when they returned home to show off their Commonwealth Games medals.
Gymnast Max Whitlock, diver Oliver Dingley and badminton player Sarah Walker posed for pictures with their admiring fans and even allowed the youngsters to try on their winners’ medals.
Max, 21, won three gold medals, one silver and one bronze during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and trains at the Basildon Sporting Village, in Cranes Farm Road, where the reception was held.
Max, who also lives in Basildon, said: “It’s great that the first time coming back to this gym, especially straight after the competition, I get a nice welcome home back.
“It’s amazing to have that support from your club and all the kids and my team-mates here.
“That’s what it’s all about and I love being a part of this club and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Active Essex, which encourages youngsters to get involved in sport and runs Basildon Sporting Village, hosted the special day on Friday.
At least 17 athletes who went to the games either live, train or were born in Essex and, between them, 15 medals were won.
Bronze medallist Oliver Dingley, 21, who trains at Southend Diving Club, in Garon Park, Southend, added: “It feels pretty awesome. It actually feels surreal, like I’m living in a bubble right now.
“It’s been an amazing experience, but I don’t think any of it has died down yet.”
Active Essex aims to create more sporting areas for all Essex residents, so they have access to as many activities as possible at their chosen level.
Gary Sullivan OBE, 54, chairman of the Active Essex board, said: “The fact we have Commonwealth Games medallists here is absolutely fantastic.
What an inspiration.
“Walking around here, there are so many young people, six and sevenyear- olds, and earlier Max was having his photo taken with some kids with his medals.
“There isn’t a better inspiration than a young man winning a bunch of medals to get people active.
“I’m very proud of Essex.”