‘Golden girl’ Jessica Ennis-Hill talks candidly about her success, family life and the Rio Olympics.
GREAT BRITAIN’S heptathlon ‘golden girl’ Jessica Ennis-Hill has always been a big fan of the festive period.
“I absolutely love Christmas,” she readily admits.
With the help of Leeds, this could be Ennis-Hill’s happiest Christmas yet, celebrating becoming a new world champion alongside husband Andy and the couple’s one-year-old son.
Reggie Ennis-Hill was born last year – two years on from his mother’s career high in securing heptathlon gold at the London 2012 Games.
Olympic glory came three years after Ennis-Hill bagged the 2009 World Championships as a 23-year-old in Berlin.
A first World Championship and a first Olympics success are naturally regarded as the two biggest milestones in the athlete’s career.
Yet there is no hiding the magnitude of a second Worlds win six years on from the first and just 13 months after becoming a mum.
The Sheffield ace had always intended on making a full-time return to heptathlon with next year’s Olympics in Rio having been the ultimate goal for the last four years. ‘Picking up’ a second World Championship along the way has been a rather nice bonus too, giving the athlete plenty to celebrate with her young family this Christmas. For Leeds, physio Alison Rose and javelin coach Mick Hill remain essential to the cause. In an exclusive interview with the YEP, Ennis-Hill admitted: “Coming back from having my first child has been a massive challenge – it has been incredibly hard as there are so many unknowns.
“Your body changes and ligaments are not as tight so I have had real issues with my Achilles.
“But my coach and physio have been brilliant and we have just had to change to accommodate the new me!
“I am so happy with the outcome – who would have believed world gold would have been possible.
“Winning gold was more than I could ever have expected and proved to me that I can get back to being competitive with the other girls.
“The Rio Olympics are the ultimate goal for me so this was a huge bonus.
“Winning gold in 2009 was amazing as it was my first major medal and it was the start of an amazing build up to London.
“Olympic gold in London was a huge relief initially as the pressure from within was huge and there was the expectation of the nation.
“Being Olympic champion is such an incredible feeling and achievement.
“The most recent gold was different as it was totally unexpected and it is a medal that I will always feel immensely proud of after the year that I have had.”
An amazing year could yet end with another high with Ennis-Hill second favourite to be crowned BBC Sports Personality Of The Year in Belfast tomorrow.
All roads will then lead to next summer’s Olympics where Canada’s world no 1 Brianne Theisen-Eaton will be among the Yorkshire athlete’s biggest rivals.
An ever-improving Katarina Johnson-Thompson will also be a threat in joining Ennis-Hill in flying the flag for Team GB.
Yet after this year’s Worlds win, the London 2012 champion again promises to be ‘the’ athlete to beat.
In the meantime, Ennis-Hill still hopes to have her 2011 World Championship silver medal upgraded in light of Russian champion Tatyana Chernova subsequently failing a drugs test. Rio 2016 is, though, the clear number one focus.
Ennis-Hill reasoned: “It would be good to get the 2011 medal retrospectively but I am not getting anxious about it; it is out of my control.
“I am very disappointed in the whole doping scandal, and hope that the IAAF and IOC can clean up the sport in time for Rio – but the reality is I just have to focus on being a hard-working clean athlete and do my best.
“Nothing will ever compare with London – the whole buzz of a home games, the expectation, the first Olympics – that was very special.
“But Rio will be special in another way – I am now a mummy and have had a whole set of new challenges – which have been huge but I am in a very happy and good place.
“Training is good and my home life amazing. I know there will be huge competition out there but I am very happy with how I am progressing.
“I will not be focusing on any individual in Rio as there are some great girls out there – Kat and Briane will come wanting to win.
“Both are amazing athletes and will want to win gold.
“I am going to simply focus on my own preparation and give it my best.”
With an Olympics to prepare for and a one-year-old son to bring up, it goes without saying that Ennis-Hill will be a busy woman. And while the support of coach Toni Minichiello, physio Alison Rose and javelin coach Mick Hill are well documented, another key part of the success story is husband Andy.
Ennis-Hill beamed: “Being a mum is amazing and I am loving it. I have the most amazing husband and family and between us we all take care of Reggie in the week.
“My training schedule has changed and my sessions allow me to have time with Reggie and get all the work I need to do done.”
Highlighting the importance of Minichiello, Rose and Hill, Ennis-Hill added: “My performance team have been a massive part of my success.
“My coach Toni Minichiello has worked with me since I was 12 years old and I think it would be fair to say has grown with me.
“He has adapted as I have grown up and as I have become more successful he has found ways to make even more gains.
“Over the past 18 months he has worked incredibly closely with the doctors and Alison Rose my physio to take all of my physical changes (pre- and post- pregnancy) into consideration and they have both done an incredible job.
“I put all my faith in them both and the results speak for themselves.
“I also work with Mick Hill, in Leeds, who has worked with me for a number of years on my javelin. Mick has given a lot of his time to help me develop technique and go from being a terrible javelin thrower to one that can at least get a half-decent heptathlon score.
“He has been incredibly patient with me and I appreciate his help enormously.
“His input is really important as I need to be able to score well in each discipline to be in the frame for gold medals.”
World and Olympic gold medals no less, with Ennis-Hill and her young family set to have plenty to savour this Christmas Day – an occasion the athlete particularly looks forward to even without having ‘extra’ reasons to celebrate.
“I absolutely love Christmas and plan to spend the time with family and friends,” said Britain’s ‘golden girl’.
“I like to have my family around me both at Christmas and new year and we celebrate together.
“I will train over the Christmas and new year period but when I am at home all thoughts of Rio will be left at the track – home time is for Reggie and the family.”