An ex-athlete from Chesham and the charity she founded to help disadvantaged children have been recognised by the Queen, her Birthday Honours 2022 revealed today.

Connie Henry set up Track Academy 15 years ago to help young people get better opportunities and fulfil their potential through sport.

She emphasised how the successes of Track Academy wouldn’t have been possible without the “fantastic” team. 

Connie said: "For all the people that believed in me when I doubted myself; for my team who go above and beyond; for the young people who consistently prove what opportunity and patience can do: we have been awarded with an MBE.”

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The former 1998 Commonwealth Games triple jumper bronze medallist grew up in a chaotic home environment in Brent, north west London – a window into the socio-economic problems in the area.

After finding solace in sports, she journeyed from the Willesden Sports Centre to train in Australia, and worked as a broadcast journalist alongside boxing promoter Frank Warren after retiring from sports in 2000.

Track Academy was born after Connie was asked to Willesden Sports Centre to lead their new athletics programme on a temporary basis, which eventually grew into a well-established charity that has helped more than 1500 youngsters.

The 50-year-old said: “It is truly an honour.

“Myself, the team and everybody around truly believe in making a difference, and we believe movement, arts and sports to be able to make that difference. We believe it shouldn’t be exclusive to any one age group, gender or ethnicity.

“We’ve gone from local to regional to national with Sports Gives Back Awards.”

“We’re proud, but it’s not been easy.

“To be actually recognised for the hard work, the sleepless nights, is a thrill.”

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The most challenging times involved securing funding before the charity became established – to be able to plan from year to year rather than just surviving from month to month.

As well as holding training sessions three times a week, the academy offers group and one-to-one mentoring sessions, as well as extra-curricular English and Maths lessons and a homework club. Ultimately, it’s about giving the students the love, encouragement and advice they might not always enjoy at home.

Connie said: “We have had members expelled from school 32 times and then go on to graduate from university, while others have been the first in their family to go to college. Some of our students have competed in athletics for their country.” 

One of Connie’s highlight’s from last year was when Track Academy funded a sports day at Chesham Cricket Club, so that a young boys’ cricket team from south London could travel to Chesham to play against a local team.

“The MBE is for me, but it’s a team effort. I understand there has to be a driver and a leader, but a leader is nothing without a fantastic team.