Twelve months before the last Olympics, Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis was winning a bronze medal in the 100 metre hurdles in the European Under-23 Championships in Debrecen.
Three years on, the 25-year-old is Britain’s best bet for gold in next year’s London Olympics in the heptathlon, and unofficial “face” of the Games.
“I’m definitely very excited,” Ennis revealed.
“I think as an athlete you’re focusing on the next competition and then the next phase of training, so we’ve got a lot of things going on between now and then, but it’s a year away so it’s very close and very exciting.
“I’ve had ups and downs like most athletes have in their career and you know that things change quickly, so I’m trying to focus on the here and now and make sure things are going well for the World Championships, and then move on from that and be ready for the London Olympics.”
The “downs” Ennis refers too were so serious that the subsequent “ups” may never have happened.
Competing in Gotzis in May 2008, Ennis suffered pain in her foot and withdrew after the first day’s events. A scan later revealed she had suffered a triple stress fracture in her right foot which ruled her out of the Beijing Olympics.
And it could have been worse.
“I was told by the UK Athletics doctor that this was a career-threatening injury,” Ennis revealed later.
“At that point my heart absolutely sank and I was worrying that it would be the end of my career at the age of 22.”
Thankfully that was not the case, Ennis returning to a full heptathlon after 12 months out in Desenzano in May 2009 and winning the event with a personal best of 6,587 points.
The only lingering effect from the foot injury was that she had been forced to change her take-off leg in the long jump from right to left, but any doubts were wiped out by her performance at the World Championships in Berlin a few months later.
Ennis led from start to finish to win gold with another new personal best of 6,731 points, 238 ahead of silver medallist and home favourite Jennifer Oeser.
Ennis does fear some people act “as if I’ve already got that medal around my neck”, although certainly not her or coach Toni Minichiello.
“The London Olympics are going to be very, very different to any other championships,” she said.“There’s going to be pressure on all the GB athletes because we’re all wanting to win as many medals as possible and do the country proud.”