Sheffield’s golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill had admitted switching between being a mum and an Olympic athlete has been tough - but she wants to defend her title at Rio this summer and go out on a high.
The 30-year-old, from Dore, has already announced that this summer’s Olympics will be her last and said she does not feel the same pressure as she did ahead of the 2012 London Games.
“It was nerve-racking and stressful competing in London because it was my first Olympics. Also, I was competing as a favourite and expected to win, so anything less would have been failure,” she said.
“Although I’m going to Rio to perform my best and hopefully go out on a high, especially as it’ll be my last Olympics, I don’t feel as much outside pressure this time, which is making me much more relaxed.
“I’ve been fortunate to have had a great career so far and I just want to enjoy this unique situation which I’ll never have again in my life. It’ll be even more special having Reggie as part of it. It’s great that he’s growing up around sport and I hope it will be a natural part of his life.”
She said winning gold last August at the Beijing World Championships when her son Reggie, born in July 2014, was only 13 months old, gave her the confidence that she could be a mum and a world-class athlete.
“That win at Beijing was fantastic because it was so hard getting back into shape and training after he was born. I started when he was four months old and it was a shock to realise that, after being so used to my body performing at a certain level, it was going to take time to get back up to speed. It took a year for my body to settle,” she said.
“It didn’t help that Reggie didn’t sleep through the night for the first nine months. We’ve always cared for him ourselves and not had a nanny, so at one stage I was sleep-deprived and questioning, ‘What am I doing? Do I actually want to do this at all now I have child?’
“I realised there was still this other side of me that’s fiercely competitive who wants to achieve and so it’s about trying to balance that with wanting to spend as much time with Reggie as possible.
“One of the great things is that my perspective on life is different now. I’ve organised training around his needs - it’s a no-brainer that he’s a priority - so I go out in the morning, spend the afternoon with him, and then do another session when he’s asleep in the evening.
“One of the bonuses is, if I have a bad training session, I don’t dwell on it like I used to because I’m too busy rushing home to look after my amazing little boy who’s smiling and needing his mummy. It balances everything out and has benefitted my performance.”
But Jess said she does feel guilty for leaving Reggie to train and compete.
“When he was born, my mum said, ‘You’re a mum now, you’ll feel guilty for the rest of your life’, and I completely get that.
“This time we’re planning for him to come with me to Rio which will be wonderful. My family will look after him and I just won’t see him on the days I compete.”