SOMETIMES it’s the little moments that mean the most.
The nation fell in love with Jessica Ennis on Saturday night as she fulfilled her destiny and became Olympic champion on a glorious night for Britain.
Our city’s secret is out.
Sheffield has given the greatest athlete to the world and we don’t mind sharing because we know her heart lies in the Steel City.
In among the assembled media just minutes after she’d been presented with her gold medal Jess was searching for a familiar face.
Fortunately this correspondent managed to catch her eye and the look said it all.
‘I’ve done it!’
That look made it all the more special.
It said ‘Thank you for supporting me through the good times and bad.’ It said ‘We’re all Sheffield, aren’t we.’
Jess is very easy to like. On and off the track what you see is what you get. Honesty, fun, a sense of greatness.
It’s very hard to define what separates her from the rest, but thankfully we have athletics to show that she’s superwoman.
Over two days in the Olympic Stadium she showed that she has it all.
Power, poise, technique, bottle, strength and emotion.
From the very first event, when she blitzed through the 100 metre hurdles in record time, no-one was going to stand between her and the gold.
She talked about wanting to put on a show for people and she certainly did that.
A new United Kingdom record was just a footnote to her triumph.
Most impressive of all was the way she handled the pressure and expectation.
For four years people were hanging the gold medal around her neck as if all she had to do was turn up in London and it would be hers.
She very rarely admitted that the pressure was getting to her, but as she crossed the finishing line in the 800m the emotion was there to see.
Four years after her career was in very real jeopardy of being over following stress fractures to her foot and ankle she was achieving the dream.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for her.
World championships have been won and lost. There’s been injury problems and a sudden lack of confidence in key events.
The one thing that has remained constant though has been her work ethic.
To see her in training is to marvel at how she manages to combine the speed of the track with the technique needed for the javelin and shot put.
Huge credit must go to her long-time coach, Toni Minichiello.
Along with the rest of ‘Team Jennis’ he has rebuilt the athlete after her cruel injury in 2008.
Remember, this was Jess’s first Olympic Games. There has been no warm-up or trial run to be able to understand how the Games is different.
She was expected to deliver a gold and she did.
In the press conference on Saturday night she was still struggling to come to terms with it all.
How do you describe completing your goals? It’s not like she’s just ticked off the last item of her weekly ‘to do’ list.
This is different. It defines her for the rest of her life and the impact of that will become apparent only over the next weeks and months.
Watching her in action was an honour.
To think that this was the same girl I’d interviewed eight years ago in a classroom at King Ecgbert’s school was hard to take in.
Then she was about to compete in a world junior championships in Canada. I remember being struck with how level-headed she seemed and also by how slight in stature she was.
Usually talented juniors are fully developed and are men or women among boys and girls.
But Jess still had so much room to fulfil her potential.
Before London had even been awarded the Olympics we’d talked about what it’d be like to compete in front of a home crowd.
It’s laughable to have tried to imagine it because the reality was so much better.
The crowd were willing her and inspiring her to produce her best. Every time she needed to be at her peak she found that extra something.
By the time the 800m had come around the gold medal was hers.
She could have jogged round the track and soaked up the applause. But that’s not Jess.
The win was there for the taking so she went for it. Roared on by 80,000 people she surged past last year’s world champion Tatyana Chernova and crossed the line.
The tears started then and carried on later.
Jessica Ennis Olympic champion. The moments of a lifetime.
Ennis turned off Twitter to cope with the expectations of a nation
Basking in a golden glow, Jessica Ennis has revealed how the pressure to win the Olympic title weighed heavily on her.
The 26-year-old Millhouses-based heptathlete said she’d been trying not to show the strain but now the gold medal has been won she is able to let her emotions go.
She said: “I can talk about it openly now it’s done.
“Obviously I was really aware of the pressure and what people were expecting me to do. Everyone expected me to win.
“I had a few moments at home worrying and wondering if it would all go right the way I wanted it to ... or if everything would fall apart.
“There was a huge amount of pressure, but it was such a unique position I was in and I wanted to make the most of that.
“I trained as hard as I could and wanted to make sure I delivered on those two days and thankfully I can sit here and say that I did.”
So much was expected of Ennis as a fomer world champion and having missed out completely on the chance of Olympic glory in Beijing four years ago through injury.
She has since enjoyed the status of an athletics queen-in-waiting via the posters, the TV ads and media attention but she needed to confirm her status where it mattered.
Ennis said she had to switch off from the goings on around her and leave her Twitter followers in the dark in order to focus on the task at hand.
“I tried not to focus on the pressure,” she said. “I was aware of everything going on and obviously every time I looked on the TV there was another advert or a poster or ad campaign.
“It was great, I had so much fun doing everything but it did add to the pressure.
“It was the people around me that helped keep everything in perspective.
“I didn’t really go on Twitter or anything like that, I just shut off from everything. I just stayed really really focused and not worried about what other people expected of me and just believed I could do it.”
She is now 3/1 with Ladbrokes to follow in the footsteps of Dame Kelly Holmes.
The bookies have installed the gold medallist at 3/1 to be made Dame Jessica Ennis in this year’s Honours List, along with fellow Super Saturday athlete, Mo Farah, who’s chalked up at 4/1 to be knighted.
As the golden girl of the Games it’s now odds on at 4/6 that she really does inspire a generation by helping influence Jessica to become the number one baby name for a girl in 2012.
The firm have already paid out on Bradley Wiggins to win this year’s BBC Sports Personalty of the Year award after completing the historic Tour and Olympic double,.
However, Ennis shouldn’t feel too disheartened as she’s heavily odds on at 1/10 to take the silver medal on the evening.
It’s odds on at 1/2 that a statue of Ennis is erected in her home town of Sheffield before Rio 2016, or there’s a 10/1 chance the Don Valley Stadium is renamed after her heroics.
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