She was the Sheffield-born poster girl for the triumphant 2012 Olympics whose mixture of talent and Yorkshire grit earned her a place among the nation’s sporting greats.
Jessica Ennis-Hill provided one of the most memorable moments of the London Games when she saw off the best in the world to grab heptathlon gold in front of a packed Olympic Stadium and millions watching at home.
Three years later she defied the doubters - and the demands of having had her first child, Reggie, only 13 months earlier - to win her second world championships.
And after the announcement of her retirement yesterday, following her silver medal-winning performance at the Rio Olympics over the summer, admirers from across the sporting world told of their admiration for the “incredibly influential” 30-year-old.
Former sports minister Richard Caborn, who served as an MP in Ennis-Hill’s home city of Sheffield, said she had enjoyed an “outstanding career”.
“She has been a fantastic athlete and a fantastic ambassador for the sport and her legacy will live on for many years to come,” he told the Telegraph.
“She’s consistently proved herself at the highest level and she should feel incredibly proud of all she’s done and achieved. She is an exemplar for Sheffield and the nation. We wish Jess all the very best for her retirement.”
Ennis-Hill won heptathlon gold in 2012 to emulate Denise Lewis’ win at the Sydney Olympics, after she claimed victory on Super Saturday, which also saw Mo Farah win the 10,000 metres and Greg Rutherford take the long jump crown inside the Olympic Stadium. She won by 306 points ahead of Germany’s Lilli Schwarzkopf with a total of 6,955 but was unable to defend her title this summer when she finished runner-up to Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam by just 35 points.
Her retirement statement was posted yesterday on her Instagram account. She said: “Amazing memories...from my first world title in Berlin 2009 to Rio 2016 I’m so fortunate to have had such an amazing career within the sport I love and this has been one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.
“But I know that retiring now is right. I’ve always said I want to leave my sport on a high and have no regrets and I can truly say that.
“I want to thank my family and incredible team who have spent so much of their time supporting me and enabling me to achieve my dreams. Also a huge thank you to all those people who have supported and followed my career over the years x”
Born in the Highfield area of Sheffield, Ennis-Hill’s links to the city have remained throughout her life. She attended Sharrow Primary School and King Ecgbert School in Dore, and even got a psychology degree from the University of Sheffield in 2007, two years before her first world title.
Fellow Sheffielder Toni Minichiello, who coached Ennis-Hill throughout her career, agreed she is bowing out at the right time.
He said: “Many sports people hold on too long. Jess has managed to avoid walking out of the stadium after failing a qualifying round. She’s walking out of the stadium by stepping off the podium. She’s one of our sporting greats. It seems fitting this way.”
How Twitter reacted
• “A sad day for athletics! A real inspiration to me and so many others. Well done on a incredible career @J_Ennis” - Fellow heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson (@JohnsonThompson).
• “Sad that we won’t get to see you compete again, such a hero to me and so many other athletes. Enjoy your retirement @J_Ennis,” - Hurdler Dai Greene (@DaiGreene).
• “It’s sad to hear that @J_Ennis has retired before @London2017. She has achieved the pinnacle of sport & is a fabulous role model for anyone,” - Former heptathlete Kelly Sotherton (@KellySotherton).
• “Congratulations @J_Ennis on your career - good luck with the next chapter!,” - Ex-England footballer Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5).
• “One of the true greats of our sport @J_Ennis hanging up spikes..Truly wish her & family all the best for the future..One of life’s winners X,” - Former Olympic sprinter Iwan Thomas (@Iwanrunner).
• “Legend. Role Model. Inspirer. Thank you @J_Ennis,” - British long-distance runner Tom Farrell (@TomFarrellGB).
• “Good luck for your future @J_Ennis,” - Former Olympic champion Sally Gunnell (@SallyGunnell).
• “We will never forget #SuperSaturday What a brilliant athlete @J_Ennis,” - Ex-footballer Dean Ashton (@Dean36ashton10).
• “Congratulations @J_Ennis on an amazing career! ðŸ‘ Thanks for all the memories! ” Team GB (@TeamGB).