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Behind the scenes with Jessica Ennis

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Tom Fordyce | 13:43 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

It is a cold, damp Monday morning at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium. The grandstands are deserted, the only spectator a burly chap in overalls and ear-protectors pushing a lawnmower up and down the infield. Grey clouds race overhead on the stiff breeze.

Sizzling hot summer afternoons in Barcelona feel an awful long way off. So do balmy evenings in Berlin's Olympiastadion, and this in nothing like the humid nights to come in South Korea in a few weeks' time.

But the European and world gold medals won by Jess Ennis on those glamorous foreign shores are earned here, at the stadium where her heptathlon adventure began aged 11.


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Taken along by her parents to a Startrack kids scheme, Ennis won a pair of trainers for her efforts and was introduced to coach Toni Minichiello. Fourteen years on, the trainers have long gone but the relationship with Minichiello remains, and underpins everything she has achieved since.

I am at Don Valley to see how the pair work, and to understand how hard Ennis has to work in training.

I'm also here to figure out how someone can simultaneously be so self-effacing and friendly and yet so ferociously competitive, casually absorbing so much pain for such distant reward and capable of such extraordinary sporting feats when the world suddenly decides to watch.

The piece forms part of British Olympic Dreams, broadcast on BBC1 and the BBC News Channel this weekend.



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