Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Jessica Ennis-Hill retires: 'Steel City' pays tribute to Olympic gold medal winner

Jessica Ennis-Hill at Sheffield Forgemasters Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ennis-Hill emphasised her links to Sheffield by posing for a photo shoot at the Sheffield Forgemasters steelworks

Jessica Ennis-Hill's star shone brightly under the floodlights at London 2012 - but she will always be linked to her home city of Sheffield.

Her achievements earned her the freedom of "Steel City" where she grew up and forged her skills as an athlete.

And it is in the city which has always remained her training base that news of her retirement has been keenly felt.

Former sports minister and Sheffield MP Richard Caborn said: "She is an exemplar for Sheffield and the nation."

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He leads the delivery of the Olympic Legacy Park which will stand on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium where Ennis-Hill trained and competed.

The stadium was pulled down in November 2013 as part of budget cuts by the city council - a decision the 30-year-old athlete described as "a huge shame" and "a massive disappointment".

Less than a year earlier, thousands of people had packed the city centre to celebrate their golden girl's achievements at homecoming celebrations outside the city's Town Hall.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands turned out on the streets of Sheffield for the Jessica Ennis homecoming celebration after the London 2012 Olympics

In the same month, Sheffield United football club renamed a stand at its Bramall Lane stadium 'The Jessica Ennis Stand' in her honour.

Just over a year later on 5 September 2013 Ennis-Hill was awarded the Freedom of the City of Sheffield.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: "People will be sorry to hear that Jess is retiring for many reasons.

"She has been an inspiration to so many of us and by being the face of London 2012 she really raised the profile of Sheffield.

"My immediate reaction is 'Thank you very much for what you've done for all of us'.

"I hope she doesn't retire from public life altogether. Jess is a genuine role model with an amazing personality in the world of sport and has the capability of being an important ambassador for that and our great city."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jessica Ennis in action in 2008 at the Norwich Union World Trials & UK championships at The English Institute of Sport in Sheffield

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said: "Sheffield is so very proud of Jess and her amazing achievements.

"She is one of the city's greatest ever athletes and was awarded Freedom of the City in 2013. She has been an inspiration to all in the city and her legacy will continue.

"We've followed her every step of the way on her journey to becoming one of Britain's most successful female athletes. A great ambassador for sport, she has represented Sheffield and the UK with real grace and humility.

"She truly is a role model for so many people and we would like to wish her good luck and success in her future".

'Pictures all over school'

Young athletes at Ennis-Hill's old school, King Ecgbert's in Dore, Sheffield, told the BBC how the famous former pupil continues to inspire the school's budding sports stars.

Sarah, a year 9 pupil, said: "She was a very big inspiration and I loved watching her running and win most of her races.

"Not seeing her face is going to kind be upsetting because usually you just see her crossing the finish line first or getting over the highest jump and it's not going to be like that any more.

"There's pictures all over the school so wherever you look you're kind of like 'Oh, Jessica Ennis went here'."

Year 12 student Amy said: "I think Jessica Ennis is a huge inspiration and just because she's retired, I don't think this is going to mean she'll stop being an inspiration because I think her legacy will live on."

Ennis-Hill's announcement also prompted tributes on social media from other figures with links to Sheffield.

Image copyright Nick Clegg
Image copyright Michael Vaughan

Former Sheffield Central MP Richard Caborn said: "I want to congratulate Jessica on an outstanding career.

"Her success has been a massive inspiration to the hundreds of thousands of youngsters who take part in sports camps, sports days and athletics sessions every year at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield where she trained.

"She's consistently proved herself at the highest level and she should feel incredibly proud of all she's done and achieved."

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