Born and bred in Sheffield, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill fell under the spell of athletics at 9 years of age, encouraged by her parents who were quite sporty themselves. Few could have then guessed that in 20 years she would have achieved one of the most successful careers in track and field sport by any female athlete, ever. Now retired and a mum of two, Jessica looks forward to the future with a big smile and bags of enthusiasm.
Q: Your athlete adult career has been a long list of successes, from the bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games to being three times Heptathlon World Champion, not to mention your incredible success and the London and Rio Olympics. What have been the sweetest medals in your career?
A: I would have to say there are two: first, my gold medal at the London Olympics. This not only fulfilled my lifelong dream of winning the Olympics but it happened in London, in front of a home crowd. It was such an amazing experience! Then winning gold in Beijing in 2015 has to be one of my greatest achievements. It was just a year after having my son Reggie and the journey back to being at my best had been really tough. I did not believe I could win gold so the victory was so sweet.
I cannot ignore being awarded the gold the 2011 World Championship gold this year in the London Olympic stadium after it had been re-allocated due to the disqualification of the Russian athlete who won in 2011. To stand on the podium at 8 months pregnant and receive my third world gold was pretty surreal and the crowd was amazing.
Q: How do you see the future of athletics in the UK? What do you think could be done to encourage children to take up athletics in larger numbers?
A: I think a lot is being said about the next generation after a few of us have retired, but I truly believe we have some really talented young athletes coming through – hopefully they will peak in Tokyo. I do however feel that athletics needs to keep moving with the times and find ways to engage with young kids as there are so many distractions for them. I am not sure what exactly we can do with the format but keeping it engaging, exciting and accessible is important.
Q: Your parents introduced you to athletics, Toni has been your coach since you were 13 and you met your husband in secondary school. How important has your husband’s and your family’s support been in your career? And the consistency of having the same coach since you were 13? Are these the 3 pillars of your stability?
A: It all started out with a really great childhood and supportive and loving parents. Living and staying in Sheffield has definitely been really important in creating the person I am. I have an amazing support system from my family and my husband and from his family too.
Having the same coach and team behind me for much of my career has been important; I am not keen on change so having Toni as a constant and the team he pulled together definitely made me feel fully supported in my career.
Q: You are writing children books, a series for Hodder called Evie’s magic bracelet. The third book in the series launched recently. When can we expect the next one? Do you think you’ll keep writing after Evie’s series?
A: There are 7 Evie stories in total – there are two more coming out this year. I have loved every minute of being involved in children’s stories and love the feedback from children. I am definitely keen to continue writing more after this series.
Q: Part of the work you do includes being ambassador for a couple of charities in Sheffield. How much of your time does your charity work take?
A: I am an ambassador for the Sheffield Children’s Hospital and the Weston Park Cancer Hospital in Sheffield – these are the main charities that I support. I like to feel that what I do is really having an impact on my local community. I also support Comic and Sport Relief and Fashion Targets Breast Cancer.
Q: You are also an ambassador for Omega. What do you enjoy the most of your role with this classic watch brand?
A: I have been an ambassador for Omega for six years and most of all I enjoy being part of the Omega family. As a company Omega is a pleasure to work with – the team are all passionate and engaging. I feel proud to wear their watches and jewelry and also of their heritage in sport as a timekeeper.
Q: I guess that with Olivia’s arrival you will slow down for a while. Will you use this time to think of what to do next? Do you have any specific ideas yet?
A: I have been super busy since my retirement from the track – I have been working on the Evie series and with some of my long term sponsors – Adidas, Vitality, Santander and Omega, and have been planning new projects that are all in the health and wellbeing sector. I am super excited about the future.