Coaches who gave Sheffield athlete Jess her first sporting chance

Jessica Ennis goes back to her roots at the Don Valley Stadium to meet Chris Eccles (L), her former head of PE who insipred her athletics career and Mick Thompson (R) who ran Jess's first Athletics summer camp
Jessica Ennis goes back to her roots at the Don Valley Stadium to meet Chris Eccles (L), her former head of PE who insipred her athletics career and Mick Thompson (R) who ran Jess's first Athletics summer camp
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SHEFFIELD’S Olympic poster girl Jessica Ennis went back to her athletic roots during a few hours off from her tough daily training regime.

Jess met up with Mick Thompson, the coach who introduced her to the sport when she was 10, and Chris Eccles, her old head of PE at King Ecgbert School, Totley.

Mick gave Jess, now 26, her first school holiday athletics experience at Don Valley Stadium in 1996 - getting her to try out the hurdles.

She said: “I have been inspired by so many people and places over my career and it is always great to take the time to remember where it all started.

“When it comes to the Olympics in August I’ll be drawing on all my experiences, the people and the places, that have brought me this far.”

Mick said: “I first met Jess at Don Valley Stadium and it was obvious she was gifted, even at 10. As part of the session we set up a series of hurdles for Jess to try.

“We were amazed when Jess flew over them first time of asking, with pinpoint accuracy and perfect technique. We honestly thought she had been coached - but that was her first ever attempt.”

Chris said he always recognised Jess had both talent and determination.

“She was in Year 7 when we had a Sheffield Schools Athletics Association meet and we realised she was something special, she was high-jumping so well. By Year 9, she was high-jumping higher than Year 11 boys. We’re a proud city in Sheffield and the fact she has remained based here is great.”

Jess also presented 50 rising sport stars with bursaries at the English Institute of Sport in Attercliffe. The scheme is run by the Jaguar Academy of Sport, and the lucky recipients included athletes from 39 different disciplines, from goalball to rugby.

And she attended a mentoring workshop, giving advice to 22-year-old Welsh heptathlete Caryl Granville, who has her sights set on the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Jess said it was ‘fantastic’ to meet the rising stars.

n Jess’ javelin joy - see Star Sport p32.