Olympics: Jessica Ennis-Hill bids to overcome toughest hurdle and retain gold

SHEFFIELD superstar Jessica Ennis-Hill saw her inevitable place at the Rio 2016 Olympics confirmed, claiming victory in South America would be her greatest triumph yet.

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill

The heptathlete will arrive in Rio as the Olympic and world champion but facing the challenge of overcoming injury, motherhood and being four years older than at London 2012.

After giving birth to son Reggie in July, 2014, the Yorkshire ‘face of the London Games’ attempted to become world champion just 13 months later and exceeded her own expectations to pip Brianne Theisen-Eaton to gold and reclaim the crown she first won in 2009.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Yet Theisen-Eaton, 27, is the current world No 1 and Ennis-Hill admits gold in South America would exceed everything she has achieved in her career, especially in light of a recent Achilles tendon injury keeping the Sheffield star out until just two months ago in May.

Now 30, Ennis-Hill only returned to full heptathlon action last month when winning the Combined Events Challenge in Ratingen, Germany, but is fully aware that she is facing her toughest assignment yet.

Ennis-Hill reasoned: “Every championship is so different and the Olympics, for me, is so hard to top because in London was just incredible.

“The whole build-up, the whole Games, everything, was literally like a dream. Then last year, coming back to win the worlds was just totally unexpected.

“There’s lots of highs but if I was able to defend my title in Rio then it would be one of my greatest achievements ever I think – having had time out through injury, having my son and then coming back. I don’t think many people have done that. Rio is not going to be easy but I’d absolutely love to win there.”

Given her recent Achilles problem, all eyes were on Ennis-Hill’s return to action in Germany last month when she triumphed with 6,733 points, the second-best score of the year, and recorded a personal best of 6.63 metres in the long jump.

After much discussion, Sheffield’s reigning Olympic champion will also not let the threat of the mosquito-carried Zika virus prevent her bid for a second Olympic gold.

“I’m still just speaking to as many people as possible,” said Ennis-Hill of the Zika threat. “I’ll speak to the medical officers at the BOA and British Athletics, just to understand how it changes week on week.

“But it’s just about taking all of the necessary precautions, making sure that I cover up as much as possible, and just being sensible, having as much as information and knowledge about Zika and how it could effect us.

“Perhaps there are different events going on in different sports that are maybe a little bit more important or high profile. But for us as athletes it (the Olympics) is everything. It’s what we dream of as young kids coming into the sport – standing on top of the podium and being the best in the world – and not just the best in the world at that time but actually delivering on that day at the Olympics. It’s everything we train for.”

Don’t miss Saturday’s The Yorkshire Post for an exclusive interview with Ennis-Hill’s young British heptathlon rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson.