Mum-to-be Ennis-Hill sets target to return for Beijing

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Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill remains adamant that she can win another gold medal in Rio, even after announcing that she is pregnant.

The 27-year-old star of London 2012 broke the news yesterday morning that she is expecting her first child with husband Andy, whom she married last May.

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill

It means she will not compete at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow or the European Championships in Zurich.

But under the continued guidance of her coach Toni Minichiello, she hopes to return to competition as early as the 2015 indoor season.

She hopes to be fit enough to try to regain her global crown at the world championships in Beijing next summer before building up to full speed by the time of the Rio Games in 2016.

Ennis-Hill said yesterday: “I have some very unexpected but exciting news to share – Andy and I are expecting a baby.

“We are completely overwhelmed with excitement and a degree of anxiety that I am sure all first-time parents will relate to.

“My plans for 2014 have been completely turned upside down, but having had a couple of weeks to think about things from a career point of view I am 100 per cent set on returning to full-time athletics once our baby is born and go for a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 – that challenge really excites me.

“But in the short term I will make our baby a priority and enjoy the whole experience as much as possible.

“I am sorry I won’t be in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, but know it will be an amazing occasion. I will be at home awaiting the arrival of a little Ennis-Hill.”

Her coach Minichiello confirmed his star pupil remains in training, and he will continue to work on her fitness during the pregnancy.

Minichiello plans to work with physiologist Dr Steve Ingham and physio Alison Rose on keeping Ennis-Hill on track for her targeted return.

What event she comes back to could be an issue to explore in the long term, with the times she sets in the 100m hurdles good enough to challenge for Olympic medals in each of the last two Games.

That would lighten the workload and narrow the focus, but Minichiello is adamant that she is happy to target the multi-discipline aspect of the heptathlon.

He said: “Both of those options are open to her. At this stage we’re talking heptathlon.

“I found out (about the pregnancy) just after Christmas. She’s been training fully to this point.

“You’ve got three three-month periods within the pregnancy and the work we do will vary, and in the first two months after giving birth, as long as everything goes to plan, you set things up very steadily.

“We’ll take it a step at a time 
and make sure everything is put in place for her to do the hard work.

“There is the indoor season potentially but certainly the world championships in Beijing will be the aim.

“She’ll have to do a heptathlon before that in order to qualify. Getting her fit for May (2015), that will be the primary focus, with the possibility of an indoor season before that.”

As well as the Commonwealth Games she will also miss this winter’s indoor season, which she had been targeting for her return.

Since winning Olympic gold in the summer of 2012, Ennis-Hill has barely competed. She managed just two days of competition before withdrawing from the world championships in Moscow due to the Achilles injury that had hampered her all season.

There is plenty of evidence of other female athletes returning to previous heights in the wake of having a child to hearten Ennis-Hill that she can do likewise.

Fellow athlete Paula Radcliffe won two New York Marathons inside two years after having her first child.

In tennis, Belgium’s Kim Clijsters won three of her four grand slam titles after becoming a mother.

The question is what will the heptathlon landscape be like when she returns.

Already Ennis-Hill had seen a British rival emerge, with Liverpool’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson building on a promising Olympic debut by narrowly missing out on a medal in Moscow last summer in Ennis-Hill’s stead.

Minichiello himself is nurturing a prospect in Karla Drew who trains in the same Sheffield practice squad as Ennis-Hill.

Whether Sheffield’s superstar has the same hunger as before she became a mother will also be interesting to see when she makes her anticipated return.

Whatever the future, there is no doubt the Commonwealth Games will be poorer for her absence.

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