Team GB’s queen of track and field, Jessica Ennis-Hill, has decided to hang up her spikes at the age of 30. The heptathlete is best known for her Olympic gold medal at London 2012 and silver earlier this year in Rio. Ennis-Hill has also won the World Championships twice, in 2009 and 2015.
Initially, she had planned on bowing out of the sport at the 2017 World Championships in London along with fellow British Olympic champions Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah. The most famous athlete in the world, Usain Bolt, is also due to quit athletics next year in London. After failing to defend her Olympic crown, Ennis-Hill feels that now is the right time to go. Following her performance at this summer’s Olympic Games Ennis-Hill admitted: “It’s going to be a tough decision, I’m going to go away and think about it.”
Former 400m world record holder and Olympic champion Michael Johnson thought that it unlikely Ennis-Hill would return: “Why would you come back? She won at the Olympics, so the World Championships in London in 2017 will pale in comparison.”
Having taken time out in 2014 and missing the Commonwealth Games, Ennis-Hill showed her strength to bounce back and take the World Heptathlon title the following year in Beijing and, if it had not been for consistent injury problems, she may well have finished it all off in London. She conceded that training had become a lot harder both physically and emotionally after having her son, and added that it is not easy for elite athletes to come back after having a baby: “You’ve got to be patient for it all to come back. Everything’s stretched so much and all your ligaments change.”
While her achievements are over on the track, she has not been short of praise since her retirement. Fellow heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson tweeted: “A sad day for athletics! A real inspiration to me and so many others. Well done on an incredible career”. The Liverpudlian heptathlete Johnson-Thompson is a worthy heiress to Ennis-Hill, excelling at the high jump, long jump and 200m but has lacked composure on the big stage in the past.
There have also been calls to make Ennis-Hill a dame. The last Olympic gold medallist to receive a peerage was Kelly Holmes, who at 34, claimed both the 800m and 1500m titles. Already a CBE after London 2012, former heptathlete and current BBC commentator Denise Lewis felt that it would be fitting to give Ennis-Hill the award: “Sometimes, the honours can be dished out way, way too easily but if Jess were to receive a further accolade then it would be deserving.”
For now though, we will remember one of Team GB’s standout track and field performers who was also an excellent ambassador for the sport.
Image courtesy of AdamKR