Britain’s most successful heptathlete, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, announced her retirement from the sport following the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Born in Sheffield in 1986, her father Vinnie is a self-employed painter/decorator and her mother Alison is a social worker; she has a younger sister Carmel.
The sisters were introduced to athletics when Jessica was 10, when their parents took them to a track event during the summer holidays. Jessica took to the sport naturally and joined an athletics club where she met Toni Minichiello, who went on to become her coach throughout her incredibly successful career. She became one of Britain’s top junior athletes through her teens.
Despite training six days a week and competing at an international level, she also managed to study a psychology degree at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2007.
In 2008, she suffered stress fractures to her foot and needed to take a year off to recover, but she came back stronger than ever and won a Gold medal at the World Championships for Heptathlon in 2009. And of course, she won Gold at the London 2012 Olympics on ‘Super Saturday’ winning the hearts of the nation and becoming the British poster girl for the sport.
“I felt I had a little bit more I wanted to achieve in my career. I want Reggie to look back and be proud and know that he was part of the whole experience.”
In 2013 she received a CBE from the Queen for services to athletics and was made Dame in the 2017 New Years Honours. She married Andy Hill, and they have one son, Reggie, born in 2014. Not letting motherhood hold her back, Jess returned to training when Reggie was three months old. She started with gentle exercises to strengthen her abdominals, gradually progressing over the months but it was a year before she regained full strength back. She admits that getting back into the training was incredibly tough after Reggie’s birth – so much so that she considered giving up athletics altogether.
“I found it really hard and my body had changed so much” she was quoted as saying on the WBNews website. “Your ligaments loosen and your body is stretched. Not having any sleep is the hardest thing.”
“I felt I had a little bit more I wanted to achieve in my career. I want Reggie to look back and be proud of what his mum’s achieved and know that he was part of the whole experience. Our families have been amazing – it’s just adjusting everything and making it work.”
“I suppose it’s like any mum who goes back to work – you have to be organised. Everything is planned and prepared so I’m ready in the morning and can give Reggie breakfast and get him sorted before getting myself to the track.”
“I suppose it’s like any mum who goes back to work – you have to be organised. Everything is planned and prepared.”
Her determination and perseverance paid off and incredibly, Jess went on to win gold at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing and competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, narrowly missing out on Gold but achieving the Silver medal to round off a truly magnificent career.
Discussing her retirement recently Jessica said “In the short term I plan to spend as much time with my family as possible, and also find ways to share the positive benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle with as many people as possible, of all ages and abilities.”
Not resting on her laurels, she has already launched a new event in partnership with Vitality combining her passion for running and music, promoting 1 mile, 5km and 10km distances on a big fun running day…. could be time to dust off the running shoes!
What an inspiring woman!