Jessica Ennis-Hill: Marriage, injuries and Sheffield United
By Ben DirsBBC Sport
You know what? That Jessica Ennis-Hill seems like a nice person.
Then again, you probably thought that already. In which case, my chat with the woman otherwise known as 'The Golden Girl of British Athletics' was very far from being the sporting equivalent of Frost-Nixon. Sorry about that.
Then again, journalism should not wholly consist of a relentless drive to reveal dark truths: what a depressing world it would be if every famous person turned out to be tormented or contemptuous or just a bit of an eejit.
On the other hand, it does not normally come as a surprise to discover that a sustained period in the limelight has short-circuited somebody's senses.
Ennis-Hill is good on the quest for normality in a society that suffocates its heroes and heroines and on the ripples of pressure that affect those closest to her. Ripples that might send friends and family of a less secure person floating off into the distance.
"It is different since last year," says the 27-year-old, who missed August's
World Championships in Moscow
because of an Achilles tendon injury but hopes to return early next year for the indoor season.
"I do try to keep everything the same and I still love going out with my friends. But wherever I go now people know who I am. They want to say 'hi', they want to have a picture with you - there's quite a lot going on.
"So my friends are quite protective - we don't see each other that often so it's nice to have a bit of time together and just have a laugh. But at the same time I don't want to come across as rude to anyone or tell anyone to go away.
"There are other times when you've trained hard, you're tired, you just want to take the dog for a walk or do some shopping. But it's what you've got to deal with, I wouldn't have it any other way: that's what comes with achievement and mostly people just want to congratulate you and wish you well."
The Jessica Ennis Stand
Sheffield United renamed the Bramall Lane Stand as the Jessica Ennis Stand in September 2012. Blades owner Kevin McCabe said that Ennis-Hill is "probably Sheffield's biggest ever star".
As far as most successful sportspeople are concerned fame is a secondary aim, if not a secondary benefit. But being congratulated and wished well at a supermarket fish counter is presumably better than being ignored, because it suggests you are still a success at whatever your primary pursuit might be.
When you are an attractive woman in the public eye some of the attention might be a little less welcome. But Ennis-Hill laughs off the fact that if you type her name into Google the first search result to appear is "bum", the second is "hot" and the third, bizarrely, is "feet", all ahead of any of her athletic achievements.
When it is put to her that this suggests female athletes are sexually objectified more than men, Ennis-Hill is not entirely sold. "Do women look at male sports because they just want to look at their bodies?" To which I answer 'no', before suggesting men tend to be wired somewhat differently to women.
Ennis-Hill believes her appearances on the covers of women's magazines send out a positive message to girls, demonstrating that a chiselled female physique, forged in the heat of battle, is just as feminine as a body withered by fasting.
"When I was at school, most girls didn't really want to do sport because they thought it was butch and made you sweaty and unattractive," says Ennis-Hill.
"It's hard reaching out to that age group and you don't really see sportswomen on the cover of Marie Claire. So it was great to have the opportunity to show you can train hard, be muscular and be strong, which you have to be to be an elite sportswoman, and still like dresses and make-up and other girly things."
Ennis-Hill finishes fourth in 100m hurdles at London Anniversary Games
The combination of her marriage in May and her current injury means Ennis-Hill has had a glimpse of what life might be like in retirement. And while she beams when asked about her new domestic situation - "it's been four months and we're still going strong!" - professionally she feels somewhat marooned.
"I had a period of time where I did nothing and it was quite nice to step back from it," says Ennis-Hill, who is currently drumming up sales for next year's
Commonwealth Games in Glasgow,
for which she is an ambassador.
"But I got bored very quickly and when the World Championships were on TV I wanted to be part of it, wanted to be competing. It's hard for me to imagine what life will be like without athletics. It must be a strange feeling."
Ennis-Hill concedes that to be an elite sportsperson is to become a virtual machine - taking on fuel, taking yourself to the limit, allowing your engine to cool, allowing others to tinker under the bonnet, repeating the process on loop.
But I am happy to report that Ennis-Hill, the social animal, is as nice and smiley as she seems on the telly - even after her fourth BBC interview. No dark truths to see here, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
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