As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough already.
Almost three years out, married, a baby, and a gruelling winter of training to scrap through, Jessica Ennis Hill’s career in athletics is about to start again.
We will always have that incredible, indelible memory of Jess with her perfect smile and union flag held over her head as she fulfilled all her Golden-Girl-of-the-games promise to triumph at London 2012.
On the biggest stage of all she delivered in front of the world. Few athletes in history can say that. But that won’t count for much when she’s on her second session of the day at the EIS this week.
Training still hurts, even when you’re an Olympic icon. And there’s a new kid on the podium now too.
As if trying to get back her old fitness, confidence and power isn’t enough, Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the European Indoor pentathlon title with a British record of 5,000 points this weekend. The 22-year-old ran 8.18 seconds in the 60m hurdles, cleared 1.95m in the high jump, threw 12.35m in the shot put, her 6.89m leap won the long jump and an 800m of 2.12.78 to set a new British best.
Jess has her work cut out. She is in intense training to be fit to compete at Götzis in early May. If it was anyone else coming back to competition you might have doubts. Will the old desire still be there? Has her body recovered from those nagging injuries that dogged her post-Olympic year?
But no-one doubts Jessica Ennis.
No-one questions that the will and strength she displayed in 2012 will give her what she needs to get back to her best. Which of course puts even more pressure on her. For many athletes winning a gold medal while being the physical embodiment of the Olympic spirit would be enough for one lifetime, thank you very much. But Jessica has chosen to do it all again at the age of 29 and she has the goodwill of a city and the country behind her.
Many athletes have returned stronger after becoming mothers. Marathon champion Paula Radcliffe, wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson and tennis star Kim Clijsters all came back better than ever after having babies. Whether Jess can knock Katarina Johnson-Thompson off her newly-acquired top spot remains to be seen. But Ennis-Hill is an extraordinary woman. Don’t bet against her.