BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce
« Previous | Main | Next »

What Jessica did next

Post categories:

Tom Fordyce | 21:00 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

This is the year everything changed for Jess Ennis: world champion and $60,000 (£36,000) richer, invited to Downing Street, the new golden girl of British athletics. Except there's a problem.

"I've still not had that prize money from Berlin," she says. "I actually forgot about it, to be honest - you have to fill out a form while you're out there, but I forgot. Yeah. I've got to chase that up..."

You can forgive the oversight. It's been a hectic few months for Ennis since her heptathlon gold on those sunny two days in last August. There's been the Mobos ("Surreal - I presented the award for best album to N-Dubz") a trip to No.10 after the Cosmopolitan Awards ("So many celebrities and random people everywhere, like Dannii Minogue") and a few extra honours for herself too, including female athlete of the year at the BAWAs.

"It's nice to step out of my world into another one sometimes," she says, fresh from a three-hour training session, "although going up on stage in front of all those people at the Mobos was definitely scary. One of the boys from JLS was saying - 'Oh, my mum was watching you, could you say hello to my mum for me?'"

Jessica EnnisEnnis has enjoyed an outstanding year

We are parked in an upstairs room session at the English Institute of Sport in her home town of Sheffield, overlooking the indoor track where much of the hard work that won her world gold was done. "This is where I'm most comfortable, training," she says. "I only have one day off a week, so we've been really careful.

"It's great having new sponsors, but you have to make sure you have time to just rest and recover and do nothing. I've found it really hard recently, because most of my rest days I've been doing things. And there's all the little things, like going to the bank, going to the post office - stupid things like that.

"You've got no time during the week to do it, so that's the only time you have - but then you're on your feet all day and you're not resting at all. And I do love just being at home with my tracksuit bottoms on, or my pj's, just lying on the sofa and doing nothing."

Her new legion of fans does not end with the mothers of R&B singers. When in Berlin, a certain Usain Bolt was rumoured to be extremely keen on his fellow world champion. How does it feel to be fancied by the fastest man who ever lived? And what does her long-term boyfriend Andy think about it?

Ennis laughs unashamedly. "Some men can be a bit jealous with their girlfriends, but Andy's very good. He knows that I have to go away, sometimes for three or four weeks, surrounded by nice athletes who are half-naked, that sort of thing..."

She laughs uproariously again. "He's really into sport, he watches everything and he plays a bit of football, but he's never done any athletics. He actually thinks it's really easy. We do hill runs in the park every other Sunday, so he was going to come and do that, but he wimped out because it was raining. There's no way could he do it. He'd absolutely die."

Ennis had strict rules in place during the Worlds. While there was competing to be done, Andy had to find other company and somewhere else to sleep. You don't become the best in the world by being sentimental.

"There was no way I was going to allow him to stay with me! You've got that routine before a competition where you go to a training camp and you're on your own - having your partner there would just add to the distractions.

"I spoke to him on the phone, and he was like, can I come and see you, and I just said no way. But he's fine - he came out to watch with his three elder brothers, so they all went out in Berlin and had a good time."

Does she ever pull rank after a long training session, lie on that favourite sofa and insist that Andy does the cooking? "I try that - 'I trained hard today!' - but it doesn't wash. He works really long hours, so we share things. Whoever gets home first does the cooking.

Jessica Ennis, Sarah Brown and Kimberley Walsh outside 10 Downing Street

"I'm actually really glad he's not an athlete. If I've had a bad session or something I can just talk at him, and then that's it - we can get on with our evening and talk about something else. If we were both athletes, how could we ever get away from it?

"You have to be quite selfish, and you're always thinking about how your event's gone and how training has been - it would be quite difficult if you were both like that."

Ennis is full of smiles, but there's no mistaking the fierce competitive drive within. She can still barely believe she pulled it off in Berlin ("You always expect something to go wrong along the way") and she will certainly not be resting on her laurels.

"Everyone was like, do you feel satisfied now you're world champion? I'm only 23. This is the start of my career. I've got so much more to achieve.

"I get really competitive with myself. When I'm doing hurdles sessions Chel (coach Toni Minichiello) has a lovely colourful spreadsheet of all the times I've run from different sessions, all the splits between the different hurdles, so I just love seeing how it compares. If I'm a bit down, that gees me up for running quicker.

"I'm not a bad loser - I just like to win. It might be a few of us trying to remember the name of a celebrity - I'll get it first, and I'll be like, YES! It's like I've won a gold medal. Or cooking - I have to be the best cook. If you're ill, I have to have been iller."

Carolina Kluft, Olympic heptathlon champion in Athens, once revealed the reason she did heptathlon because it was so much fun. With seven events to train for, there wasn't the time to be bored.

"It does suit my personality," admits Ennis. "I'm always trying to do something, or lots of things at once. It's hard because you concentrate on one event, get it right and then start worrying about another event that isn't going so well - they never all go right together. But I can't imagine just doing one event. Just being a 100m sprinter - I'd just get so bored. I know you've got your weights and your conditioning, your drills, but compared to heptathlon it's very simple."

What about the hours of brutal training, the six days a week, three hours-plus a day? Multi-eventers do have a lot of fun, but they have to be prepared to hurt. While my own laughable efforts are in no way comparable, I'll never forget the pain of that training session with Daley Thompson as long as I live.

"I hate the 800m training sessions - hate them," agrees Ennis. "They're horrible. I moan about them for the whole day leading up to them. But you feel so much better afterwards - well, you feel awful, but the sense of achievement is great.

"That lactic feeling is awful, though. I've never been sick after a training session, ever, but I get that feeling. I can feel it coming up, but I hate being sick so I just hold it - 'Get back down!'"

Her relationship with Minichiello is a key part of her success. Watching the pair of them working together, you're struck by the knowing blend of hard technical work and knockabout banter. A poster in Athletics Weekly of Ennis drawn as Superwoman becomes the focus of five minutes mickey-taking, a series of plyometric drills refocuses the mind.

"It's much better like that. Before it used to be , you do this, you do that, do it this way with no deviation from what I say', but now he's coached me for such a long time he knows I hate that way of coaching. So now I might question a session he puts together, and he'll explain it to me, and I'll be okay, fair enough."

Who has the final say? There is a pause. "He would. I'd argue it, but he'd say, do it, do it, and I'd feel bad if I didn't do it, feel like I wasn't training properly. I'd give in."

The big training aims this winter are her long-jump - working on that new left-foot take-off - her shot, and the javelin, courtesy of former world bronze medallist Mick Hill. No matter what Daley might have done, however, there'll be no training on Christmas Day.

"Chel wants me to train, but I won't - I have one rest day a week, so why not make it Christmas Day? I love Christmas - it'll be nice not having to get all horrible and sweaty, get dressed nicely, go and see my family, open lots of presents."

Turkey, mince pies, all the trimmings? "Oh yeah." She laughs again. "Absolutely everything."


  • Comment number 1.

    Good article Tom - however do find it slightly odd that there's not even one reference to Kelly Sotherton (and yet mention Kluft). Yes, Sotherton has been off injured but up until this year she was Team GB's premier hepathlete, and now she seems rather forgotten: and somehow this doesn't sit correctly. Are you (the media) genuinely not considering Sotherton a challenge for Ennis next year or is there some other reason?

  • Comment number 2.

    I can see why Usain fancies her - FIT!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Definitely the performance of 2009. What a competitor.

  • Comment number 4.

    very refershing to come across a young british athlete who has dedication to her sport and charisma in equal measure.

    no hard luck stories, no moaning (well apart from the gruesome 800m training), no over-inflated ego. just a hard working young lady who gives her all and simply tries her best. she seems grounded yet focused, competitive yet fair, and i for one wish her all the luck in the world.

    we hear far too many "yeh but i wasn't used to the conditions," "i had a niggle," "we suffer from lack of funding" esque stories in british sport, namely tennis, football, rugby, athletics to name but a few...

    this girl has put her head down, worked hard with her coach and is deservedly reaping the rewards.

    yes, her natural good lucks will help to sell fashion magazines and compliment her image, but all this off-track attention came AFTER her success, not before it (premiership footballers take note!)

    well done jessica and good luck for the future!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hey Jordan - Kelly's not forgotten - I'm following her on Twitter for starters... Will be interesting to see how she bounces back next summer. Odds on two Brits on the podium at the Euros?

  • Comment number 6.

    Tom - good to know: just thought that no reference of that duel (and at the Commonwealth Games) is mentioned ... personally, would love to see both Brits on the podium and hope they both stay injury free.

  • Comment number 7.

    Jordan D

    I do think Kelly Sotherton is a good athlete and will get a medal at the Euros but lets be honest here, there will be no duel. Jess Ennis is miles better than Kelly Sotherton and will only get better next season which will put even further in front of Kelly Sotherton. There is a major gulf in class between the two, Kelly Sotherton will be happy with a medal where as Jess Ennis will be gutted with anything less than a duel.

  • Comment number 8.

    ... Gold rather than a duel

    although I wouldnt mind watching the pair in a duel

  • Comment number 9.

    I think somebody other than Usain has a soft spot for Jessica... don't they Tom?! Wouldn't blame you if you did mate. World class athlete, dam good looking, and a fellow multi-eventer..! Wouldn't blame you at all!

    Keep up the good work mate.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think it's probably too early to tell who is definitively better. They have both had a lot of injuries, and haven't gone into a competition against each other with both at peak fitness for a while. Although i must admit, if Sotherton doesn't pick up her Javelin she's got no chance.

    Great article on the whole, although i'm not too sure about the Heat-esque title for the article on the main page. I agree she seems like some one who deserves everything she gets, and wish her, and Kelly Sotherton all the best.

  • Comment number 11.

    Think you'll find that Ennis is already better than Sotherton has ever been. At the time when she got injured in 2008, I expected her to beat Sotherton at the Olympics.

    Check the IAAF profiles

    Ennis Profile:

    Sotherton Profile:

    Ennis's 2007 PB was only 48 points behind Sotherton's 2008 4th place at the Olympics

  • Comment number 12.

    Tom Andrews - nice of you to call me a world-class athlete and damn good-looki... what's that? You meant Jess?

    themightymojo - who would you back at the World Indoors this spring if both Sotherton and Ennis are fit?

  • Comment number 13.

    On what i've seen so far, i'd have to go for Jess. I hope i'm right in believing she isn't the kind of girl to let all this new attention go to her head. And as i said, Sotherton's Javelin will still let her down.
    Kelly is the kind of gutsy athlete who could come out and surprise everyone. This is why i love athletics!

  • Comment number 14.

    Good interview and I can confirm that Jess is genuinely nice. I was backstage at the Bedfordshrie International Games this eyar checking throwing implements etc. She caleld in very normal, no prima donna. Not surprised about the cheque either because she almost forgot to come back and get her Javelins after the competition. She got a Javelin PB that day.

    It is great that our British Athletes like Jess and Paul Radcliffe can be world beaters and yet remain really down to earth, nice people.

    I will definitely be voting for Jess on Sunday night and if she wins in Sheffield perhaps there will be an open-top bus ride. Mind you at 10pm on Sunday that might not be that great!!

    Also great to see her response to the Christmas day training question. Exactly my view. You have a rest day so why not make it Christmas day. To not do that seems to be bad planning to me.

    Finally I thought not building up the Jess vs Kelly rivalry was good. I suspect Jess would have ducked the issue anyway. I think Jess has now taken over but Kelly has always been a fierce competitor so lets hope we have them both competing next year,

  • Comment number 15.


    Do you know if, Jessica got the $$$ from Berlin? if you could research it out...


  • Comment number 16.

    Usain should leave Jessica alone and instead go after Caster. I don't think Caster's seeing anybody.



Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.