Rio 2016: Jessica Ennis-Hill aims to be in elite company back on gold trail

Sheffields Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrates winning the gold medal in the womens heptathlon at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year (Picture: Adam Davy/PA).
Sheffields Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrates winning the gold medal in the womens heptathlon at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year (Picture: Adam Davy/PA).
Have your say

SHEFFIELD’S Jessica Ennis-Hill says it would be “incredible” to be part of a repeat of ‘Super Saturday’ at the Rio Olympics.

The 30-year-old will begin the defence of her heptathlon crown at the Olympic Stadium today, with the culmination of the seven-event competition coming tomorrow, when Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford will also go for gold in the 10,000m and long jump, respectively.

Four years ago in London, the trio gave British athletics its finest hour, all three celebrating victory on home soil, to the delight of a frenzied crowd, within the space of a barely-believable 45 minutes.

The timetable this time means the medals cannot be won in quite such a short space of time, but there remains a strong chance of another momentous day.

“It is really exciting. I am happy the timetable has fallen like that,” said Ennis-Hill.

“It’s a really nice moment to be in the stadium again, knowing what we all achieved four years ago.

“It would be incredible to achieve it again, but I’m not sure if that’s possible or not.

“I’m not going to be too greedy and imagine it will happen again, but it was really special to be part of that.”

Of the trio, Ennis-Hill has certainly experienced the toughest route to Rio, looking to retain her crown just two years after the birth of her son Reggie.

Should she be successful, she would become just the third athlete – after Australian sprint hurdler Shirley Strickland in 1956 and Cameroon triple-jumper Francoise Mbango Etone in 2008 – to win Olympic gold, have a baby and then return to successfully defend their crown.

Ennis-Hill flew in to Rio on Saturday after opting to miss the Team GB training camp in Belo Horizonte.

Instead she geared up for the Games in Europe – she declined to say where, only that it was “nothing glamorous or exciting” – in order to minimise the amount of time she would have to spend away from Reggie.

Ennis-Hill, who had to overcome an Achilles injury earlier in the year, but is now feeling “fit and healthy”, is inspired by the chance to create memories in Rio that Reggie can treasure.

“It was so nice having him there (at her training camp), coming down to the track and doing his little bit of hurdling alongside me,” she said.

“Every time I ran, he was going, ‘Mummy, go, go, go’.

“He’s aware of everything now, he knows what mummy does, he tries to copy what I do.

“He will have all those memories, DVDs, pictures, to look back on.

“I would love my performances to be great out in Rio, to show what him what his mum achieved just two years after he was born.”

Ennis-Hill is also looking to become the first British woman to retain an Olympic title in athletics.

“I see it as a massive challenge for me,” she said.

“Last year (when she won the world title in Beijing in her first major competition since giving birth) was a massive challenge and I feel like the odds are a little bit against me because it’s a huge thing to achieve.

“But it’s a really amazing position to be in.

“I relish this opportunity to go out there and see if I can do something really amazing at this stage in my career.”

Her chief competition in Rio will come from Canada’s world No 1 Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Great Britain team-mate Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who looks to be over the long-jump troubles which threatened to ruin her chances.

She crashed out of contention in Beijing last year when she failed to register a legal effort in the long jump, but highlighted her credentials by winning the same discipline with a leap of 6.84m at the Anniversary Games in London last month.

“Mentally, I’ve got to be 100 per cent focused,” said Ennis-Hill, who fired out a warning of her own by running her second fastest time in the 100m hurdles – 12.76secs – last month.

“Physically, I’m going to have to be at the best I’ve been for the past few years.

“I’ve just got to hold everything together and know that I’ve done this before and that I can do it again.”

In 2012, Yorkshire finished with seven gold medals, two silver and three bronzes, which would have placed it 12th in the medal table had they been classed as a country. Even after Jack Laugher’s fantastic diving result, Sky Bet is offering 25-1 that the county matches or betters their haul of gold medals this time around.

Their chief executive, Richard Flint, said: “Yorkshire’s medal tally from 2012 will take some beating but after the diving gold, the athletes are off to a great start. It would be great for the region if they can match London 2012, but it’s a bit of a long shot.”

Other notable markets on Yorkshire athletes include:

The Brownlee brothers both to win a medal – 6-4 (Alistair currently 5-6 to win gold, Jonny 7-1).

Alistair to win gold and Jonny to win silver – 8-1.

Ennis-Hill is 5-4 to win gold or 2-9 to finish in the top three.

US Masters champion Danny Willet is 25-1 to win golfing gold.

Nicola Adams is 8-13 for gold and looks the best hope of following Laugher’s lead.