Thursday October 13th marked the day that British legend, Jessica Ennis-Hill, retired from Athletics following an inspirational career on, and off, the track. After so many ups and downs, from injury prior to Beijing 2008 forcing her to miss the games, giving birth to her first child just one year before winning a world title, gold at London 2012 and placing in silver at Rio 2016. It is easy to say that her success has provided the sport with an abundance of indelible memories across the years.
At 30-years old, she had hinted at retirement following the Rio Olympic Games, and what better way to go than on a high. She didn’t let the set-back of missing the 2008 Olympics affect her determination to make history in the sport, besides, this was only one hurdle that she had to overcome in her career. Her fight with injury and overcoming physiological changes due to pregnancy only made the British public root for her more. And she never let us down.
As poster-girl for London 2012, there was a vast amount of pressure on her shoulders by the public and herself of course, wanting to maintain the 2009 World Championship title on home turf. Not only did she do just this, but also managed to join Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah as part of the trio that amounted ‘Super Saturday’, smashing her own heptathlon personal best, and cementing her place in British sporting history.
One thing that is so admirable about Ennis-Hill, other than her achievements on the track, is her sheer modesty. Her coach of 18 years, Toni Minichello, comments that ‘despite all the fame and money, she’s never forgotten where she’s come from. She’s humble, she grafts, she pushes herself hard and she never gives up’. Journalists and fans commemorate her for her patience as she never refused her time to answer their questions, never denied a child an autograph and endured interviews whilst stood in ice buckets. She always conducted herself in such a way, in front of and away from cameras, which is what has made her the legend that she is.
It was vital for Jess not to leave the sport limping to the finish line, like some older athletes do, but be remembered by all for her latest successes. And what better way to do this than by walking out of the sport 2 months after stepping off an Olympic podium. She was adamant to leave when in her best physical shape, and with upcoming athletes up to 10 years younger than herself, it was clear that she had reached the pinnacle of her career.
It is a terribly sad time for sport as our Golden Girl takes her final bow. Her determination, perseverance, spirit, and accomplishments set her apart from so many sport-people. There will be a huge hole in the midst of British Athletics, but she, and her achievements, will remain truly immortal in sport.
Photo Credit: Frank Fyfe