Why Sheffield should always be grateful to Jessica Ennis-Hill

Farewell to one of Great Britain's best ever athletes, Jessica Ennis-Hill
Farewell to one of Great Britain's best ever athletes, Jessica Ennis-Hill
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First of all Jessica Ennis-Hill, thank you.

I hate to do the ‘on behalf of everyone’ type announcement but there are many more sports fans other than myself who can’t say enough about your career and the way you have conducted yourself throughout it.

There are many members of the media that dealt with you more regularly than I did over the years as they followed you from event to event picking up gold medals along the way. From us all, thank you.

But if I’m allowed a personal note on the day you announced your retirement then now is probably perfect. Thank you for finding time to speak to me in 2003 when you were studying A levels at King Ecgbert’s school just before you set off for Canada for the World Youth Championships.

Little did I know, at the time, that speaking to you, and following your early career, would define what I also did with my working life.

From PR company HR Media, to my own business, to The Star, to back to HR Media in the time you took to go from student to global icon!

Jessica Ennis-Hill has brought the curtain down on a brilliant career

Jessica Ennis-Hill has brought the curtain down on a brilliant career

I remember chatting to you in a restaurant on Ecclesall Road before London was even announced as host city what it would be like if you competed there. You would be the face of the Olympic Games! I’m not sure anyone could imagine just how that would turn out.

The best bits were seeing the amount of work that yourself and Toni Minichiello put in day-in day-out. Not just before London but before every single event.

From the devastation of injury before the Beijing Games of 2008 to the glory of becoming World Champion a year later in Berlin.

It was also having the exclusive access that being a journalist gives you. To chat off the record about anything and everything. To gain that trust with someone who everyone in my industry wanted to interview.

Jessica Ennis poses for the waiting media after she married Andy Hill.

Jessica Ennis poses for the waiting media after she married Andy Hill.

London was fantastic. That 100m hurdles which shook the Olympic Stadium to its foundations. The turn of pace down the home straight in the 800m to ram home the message that these were your Games.

Your sporting achievements go down in history for all to see. But you’re more than a sports star and now you’re moving on to new challenges you’ll continue to inspire. And here’s why. I remember chatting to you at the EIS one day not long after my mum had passed away in Weston Park Hospital.

I was looking to do something, anything, to give people like myself hope so I asked whether you’d consider talking to the hospital about becoming a patron.

Given your profile at the time I selfishly thought it would help them raise money. Within a few days you were at the hospital meeting staff and patients. No fuss, just being you.

Jess Ennis competing in the Long Jump event at the McCain City Challenge at EIS Sheffield

Jess Ennis competing in the Long Jump event at the McCain City Challenge at EIS Sheffield

Legacy seems synonymous with sport these days. It’s easy to see what you did on the track but your real legacy – in Sheffield anyway – will be the work you do with Weston Park and the Children’s Hospital, also.

So, for that. I thank you.

Richard Fidler, former Star man

Richard Fidler, former Star man