‘I can’t thank you enough for support’ says Sheffield girl Jess

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GOLDEN girl Jessica Ennis greeted 20,000 Sheffield people with the words: “This is my home, this is the place I love.”

The Olympic champion turned the Steel City into a Golden City, as South Yorkshire turned out for a grand civic reception in Barker’s Pool.

Jessica, appearing on stage with her hard-won medal, said: “This is definitely going to be one of the greatest moments of my life.

“Thank you so much to every single one of you here.

“You have always been there to support me - I can’t thank you enough.”

The heptathlete pledged her future to Sheffield, as council leader Julie Dore announced that the former King Ecgbert’s pupil would be given the Freedom of the City.

Jessica, who lives in Millhouses with fiancé Andy Hill, said: “This is brilliant city.

“We have great facilities, and such friendly people.

“I did go and look at universities in America but I had everything I needed here.”

Jessica’s former teacher Chris Eccles and her coach Toni Minichiello appeared on stage to pay tribute to the athlete, after musical performances by city musicians Sarah Mac and The Hot Soles.

Jessica also unveiled a new gold-tinted plaque to replace her current star in the ‘Sheffield Legends’ walk of fame outside the Town Hall.

Spital Hill firm Brass Founders had created the 6.5kg brass plaque with a week’s notice - and even had time to create a spare which they presented to the athlete.

Speaking after the reception, before a private function for Jessica’s friends and family, the Olympian said: “I would like to thank everyone so much.

“The Star and your readers have followed me for a long time. Thank you.”

Residents had waited for up to four hours to see the heroic champion appear on stage.

Entire families turned out to see the girl who has become an inspiration.

Teaching assistant Tracey Spooner, aged 44, from Walkley, was there with Carl, 47, and children Georgia, nine and Flynn, five.

Tracey said: “We are so very proud of her. I don’t follow athletics normally but we had to watch all of Jess’s events.

“She’s been a really big inspiration to the kids and they loved watching her as well.”

Rita Wallace, 73, from Grenoside, at the event with husband Terry, 77, said: “We watched her in the heptathlon and we were cheering so much we were all in tears.

“She did so well and we want her to know how proud we all are of her.

“Her smile has lit up the world during the Olympics and we want to see it live.

Theresa Teasdale, 46, from Chapeltown, said: “We are proud that she’s part of Sheffield.

“It’s about time we had a figurehead who can set an example for all our young people.

Charlotte Pinney, 35, from Oughtibridge attended with husband Dave, 35 and children Imogen, four and Erica, two.

She said: “The atmosphere here is great, everyone is really excited to see Jess.

“You don’t really see a lot of people from round here achieve that level of success.”

Teaching assistant Helen Lowe, 54, from Stocksbridge, said: “I used to go down to the English Institute of Sport with my class to watch her train so it will be good to see her again now that she’s won the gold.”

Wickersley College pupil Brendan Trickett, 15, attended with pal Alex Davis, also 15.

Brendan said: “This has brought Sheffield closer together and it will probably bring us some publicity and hopefully do the economy some good.”