Announcing her retirement from competitive sport in October 2016, Jessica Ennis-Hill was the face of the nation’s athletics team for many years. She is one of the most recognisable Team GB athletes of recent years and particularly London 2012. Still at the top of her game at her retirement, Ennis-Hill now passes into the elite of high achieving sport stars.
Born in Sheffield in 1986, it was perhaps inevitable that Jessica Ennis would become a professional athlete. Her father, though a self-employed painter and decorator, was a keen sprinter from a young age. Similarly, her mother was a keen high jumper. At just 10 years old, the young Jessica went to her first athletics meet up in her home city of Sheffield. It would be the start of her career and due to her performance would win a pair of running shoes. Yet that event would prove pivotal. It was here that her coach Toni Minichiello would recognise the young Ennis’ potential.
Ennis joined her local running club a year later and began competing shortly thereafter. At age 14, she won her first award. It was the Sheffield Federation for School Sports Whitham Award in the high jump event. She did not neglect her academic studies, however. After finishing her GCSEs and A-Levels, she studied psychology at University of Sheffield.
Ennis won multiple awards as a junior with persistent high placing at both running and the high jump. Even before the age of 20, she was fast becoming a household name as a great prospect for the future. Her first taste of success came at the World Youth Games in 2004 where she won silver in both High Jump and 100m Hurdles after several years of finishing down the pecking order.
As she progressed, the medals began stacking up with persistent finishes in silver and bronze places for various U20 and junior competitions. She was not blowing the field away at this point, but her consistency did not escape notice. In 2004 and 2005, she won multiple competitions, propelling her ever forward towards Team GB history.
2006-2011 were five great years for Ennis-Hill despite having to pull out of Beijing 2008 due to a fracture of the metatarsal. She missed the reason of the athletics season but returned to competition in May 2009. That year was phenomenal. She won an award for British Athlete of the Year, Comeback of the Year and came third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year too.
2012 is the year she made her name as one of our greatest heptathletes, finishing with a gold medal at London 2012. Heptathlon is a gruelling series of events: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m sprint, long jump, javelin and 800 metres. Ennis-Hill’s diversity of interest and skills meant she was one of the best choices to compete in the women’s event. She returned to Rio 2016 to defend her title but came second. In the same year, she won her second Best Comeback title and voted Britain’s Greatest Sporting Hero at a Sport Relief poll.
Hill married in May 2013 and decided to double barrel her surname with her husband’s rather than taking his name or keeping her own. This is why the woman born Jessica Ennis is now Jessica Ennis-Hill. She took time out in 2014, pulling out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow due to pregnancy. She gave birth to the couple’s first child in July that year.
A keen football fan, a stand at Bramall Lane – home of Sheffield United – was named in her honour in 2012 for a short period. That name expired in 2015 and it was renamed in honour of a new sponsor.
Ennis-Hill retires as one of the most celebrated, famous and popular British athletes of the modern era.