A tearful Jessica Ennis-Hill admitted she faced a tough decision over her future after claiming heptathlon silver at the Rio Olympics.
The 30-year-old’s bid to become the first British woman to retain an Olympic title in athletics was halted by 21-year-old Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, who produced five personal bests from seven events to win by 35 points.
Two years after the birth of her son Reggie, the Sheffield athlete accepted her competition in Rio might have been her farewell.
“I’ve just got to make a decision as to whether this is my last heptathlon or not,” the London 2012 champion said afterwards as she tried, unsuccessfully, to hold back the tears.
“I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in the last few years. I’ve got to have a think.
“I’m going to get home and see Reggie and (husband) Andy and have a holiday, a break and switch off and relax, I can’t wait.”
Ennis-Hill, who won her second world title last year in Beijing, has always maintained she is now a mother first and an athlete second.
Her training has fitted round looking after her son, who has often accompanied her to sessions.
She has spoken about how difficult she has found it to spend time away from Reggie, while she opted to skip the Team GB holding camp ahead of the Games to minimise the amount of time she had to spent apart from her family.
A golden goodbye would have been the perfect way to bow out, but Thiam had other ideas.
The Briton’s score of 6,775 points was her best since London 2012, but she admitted Friday’s shot put of 13.86m and Saturday’s long jump of 6.34m had let her down.
She went into the final event, the 800m, needing to run 9.47 seconds quicker than Thiam to make up a deficit of 142 points.
She produced a hugely gutsy display of front-running to give herself the best possible chance and came home in 2mins 9.07secs, but Thiam’s time of 2:16.54 was enough.
“When I came off from the javelin I had to speak to (coach) Toni (Minichiello) and I said, ‘what have I got to do?’
“He said, ‘10 seconds’, and I was like, ‘oh god that’s so much’, but I just thought I’m going to run hard like I always do at 800m and see what I can do.
“I knew she was running for that gold medal. She’s had two great days she wasn’t going to give that up.”
Team-mate Katarina Johnson-Thompson also struggled to hold back tears after only managing sixth place on 6,523 points, her medal hopes dashed by poor performances in the shot put and javelin.
It was the second year in a row where the 23-year-old, seen as Ennis-Hill’s multi-eventing heir, has failed to live up to expectations at a major event following her collapse in the long jump at last year’s World Championships.
“I’m disappointed with my performance, I should have done better,” said the Liverpool athlete.
“We always said it was going to take 6,800 to win and it did - 6810. I feel like I was capable of it, but there’s nothing I can do.
“I’ve got no excuses, I just didn’t execute.”