Sheffield's Jessica Ennis-Hill wants to make British Olympic history in Rio

Golden girl Jess
Golden girl Jess
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Jessica Ennis-Hill is content to be heading into the Rio Olympics in a more relaxed frame of mind than she entered London 2012 when carrying the hopes of a nation.

The 30-year-old will bid to retain her heptathlon crown in a month's time, looking to become just the third athlete in history to win Olympic gold, have a baby and then return to successfully defend their crown.

Heptathlon

Heptathlon

Even more exclusively, she can become the first British female athlete ever to retain an Olympic title.

The South Yorkshire athlete returned to the pinnacle of multi-eventing just a year after giving birth to son Reggie when she won the world title in Beijing last summer and has battled back from an Achilles injury to head to Brazil as one of, if not the, favourite for gold again.

The result of her last competition - a heptathlon in torrential rain in Ratingen three weeks ago - will certainly have had her rivals sleeping a little less easily as she racked up 6,733 points, her best score since London 2012.

It was 64 more than the tally which earned her the global title in China, only 32 off Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton's world-leading score and a major statement of intent.

"I don't feel I'm a strong favourite," said Ennis-Hill, who will continue her build-up to Rio at the Muller Anniversary Games next week, competing in a loaded 100 metres hurdles field on Friday night and in the long jump the following day.

"I'm really happy with the way Ratingen went, I'm feeling good and training's going well. I'm feeling positive and hoping I can maintain that over the next few weeks and push on.

"Going to Ratingen and posting that score in those conditions - and coming away with a personal best in the long jump - at this stage was not something I expected. I wanted to get back to close to where I was in 2012, equal personal bests.

"This year I'd love to get to Rio in one piece and better what I did last year."

Living up to what she did so memorably on Super Saturday in London - when, as the poster girl of the Games, she shattered the British record with a score of 6,955 points to give British athletics, along with Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford, the greatest night in its history - will be some challenge.

But Ennis-Hill knows nothing else in her career can match the pressure and expectation of her two days of competition at the Olympic Stadium.

"I don't think I'll be able to completely relax," she said.

"I can feel the nerves building already. There's excitement as well. It feels completely different this year.

"I don't feel that stress and pressure I had in 2012 and last year as well when I decided to go to Beijing.

"I kind of feel I've come back from injuries and having my son and got back to the top of my sport.

"I felt more stressed in 2012 than any year I've experienced. Last year was a really unknown year. I didn't plan to go to the Beijing World Championships, it was kind of a last-minute thing.

"I always had it in my mind that I wanted to come back and get back to my best. I always thought that would be this year and not last year."

Ennis-Hill readily admits her priorities, as a mother, are vastly different to what they were four years ago. She is treading a path unfamiliar to most - Australian sprint hurdler Shirley Strickland in 1956 and Cameroon triple-jumper Francoise Mbango Etone in 2008 are the only two athletes who have won consecutive Olympic titles and had a baby in between.

It is for that reason Ennis-Hill has opted to skip the Team GB holding camp in Belo Horizonte and will instead head to a camp somewhere in Europe, with husband Andy and Reggie, for 10 days before flying on to Rio "four or five days before the competition".

"Where in previous years I'd always go to the holding camp, this year that's not going to work for me," she said.

"I have Reggie, I'm a mum and my priorities are totally different now. To be confident going out and performing I need to be with my son for as long as possible, then I know I'm happy and he's happy and I can go out and put all my energy into performing."

She admits the Zika virus has been "a concern", but is determined to "try to not let it be a distraction".

Given Ennis-Hill's record of rising to the occasion, it is hard to imagine it will be.

:: Tickets for the Muller Anniversary Games are available from £20. More finish line tickets have now been released. Visit www.britishathletics.org.uk