Jessica Ennis-Hill will this weekend compete in her first heptathlon since landing gold at London 2012 as she takes the first steps on a path she hopes will end in more glory in Rio next year.
The 29-year-old from Sheffield will bid to get the 6,200 points needed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics when she goes up against many of the world’s best multi-eventers at the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis.
This morning, when she lines up in the opening event, the 100 metres hurdles, in Austria, it will have been 1,029 days since she lit up the Olympic Stadium by crossing the line in the 800m to clinch victory.
On that night Ennis-Hill broke the British record as she amassed 6,955 points.
But she is a very different athlete now, having had to start almost from scratch again following the birth of her son Reggie last July.
“I do feel very different to how I’ve felt in previous years of competing,” she said recently. “Having Reggie in my life has changed my life completely – it’s an amazing feeling.
“I still have that anxious, nervous energy to compete and that competitive edge, but I feel like I can enjoy it a little bit more and not get too stressed with things not perhaps going to plan or where I am, where I want to be and that kind of thing.”
The Yorkshire athlete has competed twice since becoming a mother, over the hurdles at the Great CityGames in Manchester on May 9 and in the long jump and javelin in Loughborough a week later. A gruelling seven events over two days in Gotzis, though, will be the biggest test of her comeback by long way.
She has admitted the task ahead of her is a “huge, huge challenge” and said she has to be “realistic” about her expectations.
On Ennis-Hill’s last appearance in Gotzis, in 2012, she triumphed emphatically, but this time position is not the issue. That is a concern for next year. Olympic qualification is what matters at the moment.
Ennis-Hill has battled problems to both Achilles, which threatened to force her to delay her heptathlon return. Failing to make 6,200 points would be a setback, but not a disaster. There are plenty of other chances to achieve qualification for Rio over the next two seasons.
Should she fall short, a secondary target is the 6,075 points needed to make the World Championships in Beijing in August. Katarina Johnson-Thompson will not be in Gotzis but reigning Commonwealth champion Brianne Theisen-Eaton is in action.