January 16 - Dan Bentley (pictured) has revealed he hopes becoming a sporting ambassador for Essex for the second time will help him win gold at the London 2012 Paralympics - just as it did at in Beijing.
The 26-year-old, who won boccia gold in the Chinese capital 2008, will be involved in helping to teach the sport to schoolchildren and promote the overall 2012 event, and he says the task actually helps with his training.
"This is the second time that I have received this award," he said.
"I received it before Beijing and it helped me so much with my training because I am always teaching boccia to schoolchildren and therefore always playing the sport.
"Also, I'm always finding people to help with my training.
"I really enjoy my role of an ambassador.
"I like teaching boccia to schoolchildren because they seem to really enjoy the sport - I think this is because it is a new game to them.
"I hope that promoting boccia will get people behind the GB team ahead of the 2012 games."
Bentley follows in the footsteps of Dunmow hockey player Chloe Rogers, who was also registered as one of 13 Essex ambassadors set to be involved in the Olympics and Paralympics.
Athlete Ambassadors all receive a sum of up to £6,500 ($10,300) to help with training, transport and equipment costs.
Bentley added: "This money will help me move towards 2012 with training, travel and employing PAs to help.
"My training includes nine hours of boccia, two hours of gym work and one hour of swimming, plus help on training with weekends away.
"I have to have someone to assist with this work.
"The money will also help me to fund my travel to Haverhill to train three times a week as I cannot get use of the marked boccia court at Dunmow sports hall."
Past ambassadors have found themselves starting the London 2012 Open Weekend celebrations, speaking at international events and testing their skills at the Essex Urban Games.
Some of the ambassadors have also taken part in the unique "journey to the podium" project where they have been immortalised in a piece of art.
The County Council's Cabinet member for education and the 2012 Games, Stephen Castle, said: "I am delighted that the Team Essex Ambassador programme is able to support local talented athletes as they strive to realise their goal of reaching the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
"The ambassador programme enables schools and local communities to meet the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.
"It is my wish that the athlete's determination, dedication and desire to reach the 2012 Games is a source of inspiration to young people in Essex."
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