Athletics: A year of highs and lows for golden girl Ennis-Hill

Jessica Ennis-Hill after returning to the Olympic Stadium for the Anniversary Games. Pic: John Walton/PA Wire
Jessica Ennis-Hill after returning to the Olympic Stadium for the Anniversary Games. Pic: John Walton/PA Wire
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Never say never in sport. The strangest, most brilliant things can happen and that is why we’re so entranced by it.

However, it would be a brave person to predict that Jessica Ennis-Hill could ever top what happened last year.

Winning an Olympic Games gold medal in her home country in the Olympic Stadium whilst being billed as the ‘poster-girl’ for the entire event - it doesn’t get much better than that.

And if her 2013 is anything to go by - aside from her wedding in the Peak District to long-time boyfriend Andy Hill - then the 27-year-old will face a hard winter’s training to get back into the kind of shape that saw her dominate the heptathlon in London.

In the weeks after winning gold, Ennis-Hill said many times that no matter what happened in her career from that moment, she’d achieved her main ambition.

It must be difficult to summon up the motivation on the cold winter’s mornings to train as hard when you know there’s a nice shiny medal waiting for you when you get home.

Ennis-Hill is a consummate professional, and she has an excellent support team around her, so it’s unlikely that her levels have fallen anywhere below her usual high standards.

The World Championships in Moscow later this month were her goal all season long but injury has robbed her of the chance to pick her second outdoor global title.

The frustration was clear to see when she announced that the Achilles problem, which she has been battling all summer, had proved too painful for her to make the flight to Russia.

She said: “To say I am gutted is an understatement - no athlete likes to miss the opportunity to compete at a major championships - they don’t come round that often.

“Up until now we have been focusing on managing the pain so I can train and get myself in shape to go out there to win in Moscow, which has meant not focusing on finding a cure for the injury. The time has now come to stop chasing fitness and look to cure the problem.”

What happens next will be determined over the coming weeks.

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next July are a goal as it’s a title that she hasn’t won. Bronze in 2006 in Melbourne was her first ever senior medal.

There is also a European Championships - almost as strong in terms of competition as a World event - in August.

Injuries are part and parcel of being an athlete and she has fought back from a serious one before in 2008.

But that was before she’d got what she really wanted.

The smart money would be on Ennis-Hill re-grouping in the winter.

Olympic Games medals are what sets the good out from the great and she has got the chance to put herself in a position to be considered the greatest ever female British athlete.

She jokes that only her husband watches the boxed set of her performances in London.

In some ways that’s good. It shows she doesn’t want to reflect on what’s she done and that there’s plenty more to come.

A lot has happened in the 12 months since she stormed down the home straight in London to seal the Olympic title.

She’s been named the world’s best sportswoman and then seen the clock ticking towards destruction on the place she says inspired her to take up athletics - Don Valley Stadium.

Everyone wants a piece of her; everyone wants a picture or a re-tweet.

As she spoke to her coach Toni Minichiello during the long jump last weekend on her return to the Olympic Stadium for the Anniversary Games, a little girl was standing in front of her wearing a Jessica Ennis-Hill mask.

It must feel sometimes like she’s living in a very surreal world.

But what a year it must have been. Every day she wakes up as an Olympic champion and will do for as long as she lives.

No, the 12 months as an athlete haven’t been vintage - how could they compare - but the year after an Olympics are notoriously tough.

It’s now out of the way. The journey back to fitness begins and the first steps on the road to Rio 2016 will be made.

Ennis-Hill may never get that feeling again as she had on August 4 2012 but there can be many more achievements to look forward to.

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