Retirement looms for Sheffield's Jessica Ennis-Hill
It was not the walk off into the sunset that she would have wanted but Jessica Ennis-Hill admits that retirement is the likeliest outcome after her Olympic silver medal in Rio on Saturday night.
The 30-year-old had to settle for second spot on the podium in the end after a dramatic heptathlon over the first two days of competition in the Olympic Stadium that saw Nafissatou Thiam storm to gold.
The 21-year-old Belgian claimed five personal bests over the seven events and her javelin in the penultimate discipline meant Ennis-Hill went into the final 800m knowing the game was up.
But the Sheffield star still produced a run of such stunning grit and determination that it made you proud to be British – leading from gun to tape around two laps of the track.
She had to beat Thiam by near enough ten seconds and it was not enough in the end – and the reigning world champion admitted afterwards that this could be the last we will see of her on an athletics track.
“I am pretty emotional but these are happy tears and I am just really proud to be back on the podium,” she said.
“These two days have been really tough but I am really proud.
“I think I just let points slip in a few events, like the long jump a little bit, the shot put wasn’t great, so little points leaked.
“But I gave it everything I’ve got so I am not walking away wishing I had done this or that because I didn’t everything I could over these two days.”
“I am kind of thinking back to the past few years and I have just got to make a decision as to whether this is my last heptathlon or not.
“I have got to have a think. I have just tried to stay focused on getting here and competing but it does creep into my mind, thinking this is possibly my last competition and that I might not do this event again or that one.
“It is just a really strange time in my career and it is all new to me and it is going to be big changes.”
Next year’s World Championships are in London - the sight of that famous night four years ago when Ennis-Hill cemented her place in the hearts and minds of the British public.
And the prospect of defending her crown on home soil is a tempting one – but one thing she has ruled out is the previously-mentioned idea of focusing on the hurdles.
“The decision is made harder with the fact there is London [2017 World Athletics Championships]. It is a tough decision and it is such a tough event and I have done it for so long so we will see,” she added.
“I love hurdles and I always said I would love to give it a go but I kind of feel that the boat has sailed on that one.
“The hurdles is so competitive and I couldn’t just come back and give it a go two or three times a week and I don’t want to be that kind of athlete.”
While Ennis-Hill took second spot on the podium, her compatriot and teammate Katarina Johnson-Thompson threw away her chance of a medal.
Her performance in the shot put and the javelin cost her dear as she ended up sixth, but Ennis-Hill is confident that in the 23-year-old, the future of British heptathlon is in good hands.
“I think it is tough for Kat. It is such a tough event and I know she is feeling emotional about everything,” she added.
“I just said to her that her throws are weak but she can improve and make the changes, she just needs to go away and work hard at it.
“I have every faith that she can score more and be on the podium. But it is this event and it is hard and it does take time.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, fellow Sheffield athlete Luke Cutts failed to make it through qualifying for the pole vault final.
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