If one person became the shining icon of British sport at the time of the London 2012 Olympics, that person was without the faintest shadow of a doubt Jessica Ennis-Hill. Her achievements inspired a nation, her personality put her at its heart. She was truly Britain’s golden girl.
Her heptathlon gold medal was the crowning glory of what became known as Britain’s Super Saturday at those games, but for Jessica Ennis-Hill it was the summit of a life of dedication, ambition, focus and, sometimes, heartbreak. Born Jessica Ennis in Sheffield in January 1986, she started competing in athletics from the age of 10, winning a pair of trainers at her first-ever event in her home city’s famous Don Valley Stadium. It was a day that transformed her life, for there she met the coach who was to stay with her for the whole of her remarkable career, Toni Minichiello.
At this stage her athletic prowess developed in tandem with her education: GCSEs, three A-Levels, and in 2007 a degree in psychology at the University of Sheffield. But it was athletics that was to propel Jessica Ennis-Hill to stardom. Highly-rated as she was – to British record level – at events like the 100 metre hurdles and the high jump, she soon found the ideal niche for her ultra-competitive edge: the tough demands of multi-event disciplines.
After that there was no stopping her. With seven gruelling elements over two intense, emotion-packed days, the heptathlon is the toughest prize of them all. There were setbacks, of course, injury forcing her to miss the Beijing Olympics just as she was breaking through into the event’s international elite. But with typical grit and motivation she came through, and now boasts Olympic Gold, three World Titles and a European title among her long list of sporting honours.
But there’s more to this extraordinary achiever. Married to her spouse Andy Hill in 2013, she’s the mother of two children, a son and a daughter – winning her third world title in 2015 on her comeback from her first pregnancy, with a brilliant silver medal at the Rio Games a year later, after which she announced her retirement.
As a sports speaker, a motivational speaker, or keynote speaker, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s example sets the standard.