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Steely Ennis has golden glow

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Tom Fordyce | 20:13 UK time, Sunday, 16 August 2009

Jessica Ennis says that, should there ever be a film made of her life, she would like Eva Longoria to play the lead role.

Eva: get your weights out, break out the protein shakes, swap your high heels for the high jump and insert your own 'handling a javelin' joke here. The biopic could be on the horizon.

In the last two days in Berlin, Ennis has metamorphosed from talented contender to proven champion, just when British athletics was starting to wonder where the next star might be coming from.

It's one thing to come into a world championship as the favourite, quite another to produce your best ever score when all eyes are on you and the best heptathletes on the planet are chasing you down.

It was hard to decide what was the most impressive element of Ennis's performance.

There was dealing with the pressure of being Britain's main hope for a gold, finding a personal best in the very last round of the shot put and compiling a first-day total bettered in history only by the legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carolina Kluft.

Then there was the remodelled long jump off what used to be her wrong foot, a javelin five and a half metres longer than she managed at her previous Worlds and staying in gold medal position from the very first event to the last.

Ennis might be a newish name to the general sporting fan, but her win in Germany has been a long time and a lot of hard work coming.

Even basic biology made it tough for her. Not only is she small for a heptathlete, she's small for her family. Her Derbyshire-born mother is 5'11", her Jamaica-born father dad 6'2" and her younger sister 5'10", but Ennis herself is just 5'5".

Jessica Ennis celebrates her win

"She is able to pack a lot of power into that small frame," explains athletics great Michael Johnson. "She's very technically sound in all of the events and she's able to make adjustments in competition. She's also mentally tough. She doesn't get too high when things are good and she doesn't get too down when they're not."

Ennis's early sporting talent first surfaced at King Ecgbert School in her hometown of Sheffield. It was developed at the City of Sheffield Athletic Club and honed by coach Tony Minichiello at the English Institute of Sport and Don Valley facilities.

Because of her diminutive size, Ennis has had to put in the hours with her throws. Having failed to get past 40 metres with the javelin at both the 2006 Europeans and 2007 Worlds, she sought out fomer GB international Mick Hill to add on the distance that would allow her to compete with the best. When a triple stress fracture ruled her out of the Olympics last year, she decided to switch her long jump take-off feet and start from scratch all over again.

Here in Germany, she has reaped the dividends of all that hard work and in doing so has become part of Britain's long and proud history in the multi-events, stretching back to Mary Peters in Munich in 1972, through Daley Thompson's Olympic golds of 1980 and 1984 and Denise Lewis's gold in Sydney to Dean Macey's silver at the Worlds 10 years ago and Commonwealth gold in 2006.

"Jessica has a nicely balanced performance, not outstanding in any event, but good at them all," Peters said recently. "She performs so well, both as a personality and as an athlete. She will be an inspiration to another generation."

For Jonathan Edwards, it's the mental strength of psychology graduate Ennis that sets her apart from most 23-year-olds.

"The most impressive thing has the been the way she managed herself," he says. "She had never been in this position at a big championships before, but despite that she never really looked in trouble."

There should be more to come. Ennis will surely add distance to her long jump as she becomes accustomed to the new take-off, put extra metres on her javelin and bring her hurdles time down even closer to the British record.

"I'm so proud of her," said Lewis. "She has performed out of her skin. She was here on a mission. She knew what she could do and she did it from the start."

Charles van Commenee, Sebastian Coe, Tessa Jowell - all will be breathing a big sigh of relief. Ennis can get ready for a whole heap more pressure.

Barely was the gold medal confirmed as hers when thoughts began to race forward to London's own Olympic Stadium in three summers' time.

At a time when potential home-grown Olympic champions are as thin on the ground as vegans in Berlin, the coronation of Ennis as world champion could not have come at a better time for the bigwigs charged with delivering a successful Games.

Each Olympics needs a golden moment in the main stadium from one of its own. The one slight blemish on China's medal record in Beijing last year was the lack of a track and field gold. Once Liu Xiang's injury had forced him out of the 110m hurdles, the Bird's Nest was denied the chance to celebrate a home success.

Athens had Fani Halkia in the 400m hurdles, in Sydney there was Cathy Freeman in the 400m, while Michael Johnson triumphed twice in Atlanta and Fermin Cacho and compatriots shone in the 1500m in Barcelona.

Ennis, and to a lesser extent her team-mate Christine Ohuruogu, will now be the figurehead for London's hopes. On the evidence of this weekend, the former has the resources in place to handle it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Got to take your hat off to Jessica Ennis, after the huge disappointment of the Olympics injury she has got herself fit again and proved that she was an olympic medal prospect.
    She has done well, deserves her success and must be medal hope for 2012.

  • Comment number 2.

    I was particularly impressed with her 800m run. She could have played it safe, but instead took the race by the scruff of the neck and won it on her own terms. Terrific stuff.

  • Comment number 3.

    Very happy for her, she seems like a lovely woman and she's so cute. Her 800m was very ballsy considering she didn't have to finish anywhere near the front to take the gold. That shows a lot of heart and confidence.

  • Comment number 4.

    I was in the stadium tonight and I was an extremelv proud Brit. It was such a gutsy run to go out and win the final event like that. Brilliant stuff

  • Comment number 5.

    Excumbrian, running 61,71 for the 800m was probably the least measured aspect of Jess' performance. Handling the pressure of being favourite despite not having a world medal previously, or being so far ahead that she was never really threatened - quality.

  • Comment number 6.


    Well done jessica ennis. You have made a whole nation very proud indeed.
    That 800 m run was amazing!

    Got to mention my schoolfriend Louise hazel. Everyone back home is so proud of her to! doing march,cambridgeshire proud!! well done lou! ;-)

    roll on 2012!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Absolute legend, what a fantastic performance from the dynamo. The tadpole came of age and is definately no frog. Definately a candidate for SP of the year.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well done Jessica!! What a star, what a performer, fully deserved. And humble too. Let her be a role model to all our track and field athletes.

  • Comment number 9.

    This young woman has it all. She is amazingly talented as an athlete, is technically gifted, and has the perfect attitude to everything that goes on around her. Popular winner with her fellow competitors, natural and determined with herself.

    Jess Ennis enjoy these moments for you have earned them. You have the talent to be an all time great. Go for it Jess.

  • Comment number 10.

    AMAZING! Enjoyed watching the competition!

  • Comment number 11.

    Jess was absolutely fantastic from start to finish, and such a joy to listen to and watch, as well as Louise Hazel. What fantastic role models for our overpampered youth.
    But how typical of the BBC that we get a world champion and they lead with Usain Bolt. OK he shattered the world record, but our very own Jess hardly makes the front page of the BBC's webiste. Extremely poor form BBC, but typical I would say.

  • Comment number 12.

    Ridiculous idea to have Eva Longoria play her. Jess is waaay hotter.

  • Comment number 13.

    coolblue1966, this is not a rod with which to beat the BBC - Ennis was excellent, but Bolt was beyond excellent. Someone will always win gold, but someone won't always destroy not only a world record but the perception of what might be possible in the event. I'm delighted for Ennis nonetheless, she looked every inch a champion.

  • Comment number 14.

    5'5" tall?
    That's astonishing, she jointly holds the GB high jump record !

  • Comment number 15.

    'Father dad'?

  • Comment number 16.

    Agree with Beeb, Eva Longoria can't hold a candle to Jess!

  • Comment number 17.

    Great weekend from Jess. Superb first day (she jointly hols the British High jump record and almost has the British High Hurdles record !!) and then a solid second. 6.29M off a remodelled Long Jump take off and a solid Javelin as well.

    Possibly went off a bit fast in the 800M BUT in all honesty with a 12 second cushion she had the Gold unless something happened. All that could really happen was that she might get tripped in a pack so taking off and running clear was actually the best strategy, although a 61 second first lap would have been pretty reasonable for a Simpson, Meadows or Okoro :-))

    A bit of a shame for her that the 100M went off next and was earth shattering but she will still have the medal round her neck today to remind her what she achieved.

    Talked to her at the Bedford International Games in May. She really is as nice and normal as she appears. A huge asset to British Athletics.

    Finally glad she didn't break Denise's record as it will give her something to chase as she now builds to 2012. I'd like to hope she won't be put under too much pressure but fear that is almost inevitable. Lets hope she keeps fit between now and then.

  • Comment number 18.

    Massive congratulations to Jess - well deserved and excellent performance. A shame that everyone seems to have forgotten about the equally talented/pretty Kelly Sotherton - one injury and she seems to have been forgotten completely. A GB dual between those two would be quite exciting.

  • Comment number 19.

    Absolutely fantastic achievement by Ennis, changing take off leg in the long jump and still going as far as she did was remarkable. With the age she is she should hopefully peak at 2012 and emulate Denise Lewis' achievements, probably even beat her Commonwealth record as well. Congratulations Jess it was terrific.

    p.s. as a footnote coolblue don't be narrow-minded, someone smashing the 100m by a greater margin than anyone before him had since electronic timing was introduced is the biggest news of the day. You may have wanted Jessica's story to achieve top billing but you can't honestly question the decision to give the 100m story the bigger coverage.

  • Comment number 20.

    Followed Jessica Ennis all weekend and she was brilliant, great performance. My girlfriend gave me a sneidy look last night as the commentator mentioned her offical website had crashed due to the volume of people going on there. Caught me lying on the sofa, it wasn't me! If you're reading this Jessica, I'm willing to take a hit and finish my girlfriend and marry you straight away (if my missus is reading this then I'm sorry but it has been coming for a long time or at least since the hurdles).

  • Comment number 21.

    How great to have a champion who looks like she enjoys doing what she does. I can't remember a happier looking winner since Martina Hingis first won at Wimbledon. Long may she smile and let's hope it's infectious.

  • Comment number 22.

    Pure class. Simple as that.

  • Comment number 23.

    The way she responded to being caught in the 800M was very revealing..shows a woman who will fight..she maybe went off to quick but she was determined to win that race..made me very proud to be British..what a star!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    On reading another article under the title - Ennis relieved after painful year - leads me to ask just one thing, does this Ed fellow work for Warner Brothers as some of the things coming out of that industry are comic in proportion

  • Comment number 25.

    If Jessica had blown something up or commit some crime she would not have been British but Jamaican, the same for Dame Kelly Holmes and all the other British hero athletes who have done Britain proud with one or more Jamaican parents.

  • Comment number 26.

    shes not just an awesome athlete, but is a babe aswell i fancy the pants of her, not that she would look twice at me lol.

  • Comment number 27.

    Guys..I know she's cute but you really do demean yourselves by all the rubbish about how she looks/how you want to dump your girlfriends for her...

    The kid has worked her socks off for years and the biggest reaction is about how she looks! Give her some respect for her accomplishment!

    And please - let's have an end to Hazel Irvine et al describing the Heptathlon as 'gruelling' - it's not! It's 7 events, 4 of which require high levels of skill & explosive power lasting seconds, a sprint hurdles lasting 13 seconds, and a 200 (quite fatiguing) topped off with the worst of all the 800. The training is gruelling yes, but the event is pretty minor compared to that.

    And yes - I've done it - the decathlon - 10 events - 5 days a week training for 4+ years but the event itself - great fun!

    Perhaps the commentary team believe that we are only capable of understanding 'gruelling' and not the technical side of things. Or perhaps they don't feel comfortable in looking at the technique themselves...

    Anyone like to make an informed comment on her javelin...?

  • Comment number 28.

    What a wonderful competition and what a wonderful competitor. Jessica Ennis is a superb role model for all our young women and let's hope they realise that.
    Someone wrote "A shame that everyone seems to have forgotten about the equally talented/pretty Kelly Sotherton". I really take issue with that. What on earth has prettiness got to do with anything? Kelly has served the heptathlon and British athletics superbly well over the years but I'd argue that Ennis eclipses her in both ability and promise. Sotherton is after all now over thirty and the clock is ticking. It's perhaps her misfortune that she coincided the peak of her career with the great Kluft. Hopefully I'm wrong and I'd be happy to eat my words.

    And as for the person calling themselves inmyownwords, why on earth are you trying to turn this into a race issue? I mean, really.

  • Comment number 29.

    Coach65. You're right. I don't know what I was thinking. I rescind my sexist comments and realise that her accomplishments as an athelete far outweigh any topic about how beautiful she may or may not be.

    Bearing this in mind, your tongue in cheek question about her javelin throwing frankly disappoints and disgusts me. You should hang your head in shame (but don't split up with your wife whatever you do)

  • Comment number 30.


    grow up man for petes sake, we know she's a awesome athlete we all sead that, but whats wrong with saying she's hot i think she'd see that as a compliment. and as for saying its not hard to do what she's done is pethetic and should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Comment number 31.

    Bravo Jess! Another big triumph for a mixed-race kid and a great person!

  • Comment number 32.

    singingHannahJ I made no mention of race but on nationality or perceived nationality base on achievements or criminality.

  • Comment number 33.

    Please, for god's sake can people shut up about 2012. It's 3 years away. Let's just celebrate a fantastic performance by a suberb British Athlete in a huge event. There are a million things that can happen between now and 2012 and Jess' chances of success will not be helped in the meantime by people constantly steering her attention a long way over the horizon. There's an old saying - let's cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, well done Jess.

  • Comment number 34.

    When my newspaper was delvered this morning I fully expected to see a photograph of Jessica Ennis smiling, with the Union Jack draped over her shoulders, but no - it was Usain Bolt. Our media should have been so proud of Jessica's achievment that she should have been the headliner. Hopefully the BAA will use her wonderfull smile as the face for the 2012 Olympics, I am sure all in GB are very proud of you Jessica.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yes but this blog is about her achievements which are being universally applauded and admired. Usain Bolt is Jamaican, and his achievments are being lauded the world over, and are more high profile than Ennis's even here in her own country.

  • Comment number 36.

    Ok Guys...her javelin throw IS technically poor - and I really do know what I'm talking about because I've helped coach athletes in the jav to Olympic qualification level. A coach's mindset is to look for improvement wherever it can be found and THAT is what gets athletes onto podiums. It's why we are never happy - always pushing for more and more.

    My sport is one of immense skill and dedication, long hard winters training in the ice and snow, exceptionally committed young people who spend hours honing complex skills.

    It gets up my nose when it's denegrated down to the level of admiring athletes for being pretty and describing the multi-events as gruelling - they're not! They are demonstrations of skill speed and power - hard work - yes - but mainly a reflection of a massive amount of work and a superb competition mentality.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi, Tom, hi all

    Thanks for this article. And the comments.

    I was / am really very happy for Jessica!! Very WELL DONE!! Was inspiring!

    Just hope she stays focused and very motivated to perform ON THE TRACK AND FIELD! Like the BBC commentators mentioned she has to have a very good team around her now, who to deal with everything else – media, etc.

    So, Jess, concentrate only (or better said “mainly”) on the job - you showed all of us - you do best! It is just the beginning, as long as you stay focused and highly motivated to continue with the track and field.

    Really hope we see her perform very well on 100m hurdles too! She was very good there!

    Keep up the good work.

    PS. No. 4 – Jules_d_h – lucky you : ). I should have taken week off and be in Germany too. World Athletics Championships are very special. Even when it comes purely / only to athletics I prefer them slightly more than the Olympics.

    Jess Ennis’s 800m win was brilliant stuff, agree.

    (Off to Bekele and Yelena now : ). From Monday evening… WOW?!?)


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