Olympic legend Michael Johnson doesn’t see anyone standing in the way of Sheffield’s heptathlon queen Jessica Ennis-Hill retaining her title at the Rio Games this summer.
Johnson, who won four Olympic golds and eight World Championships in his glittering career, believes Ennis-Hill’s remarkable mental strength and determination will see her seal a fairytale gold after suffering injury and giving birth to her first son, Reggie.
The 30-year-old confirmed last month that she would miss the entire indoor athletics season because of an Achilles injury, and hopes to be “100 per cent” ready to defend her Olympic crown in Rio in August.
And Johnson, speaking to Laureus.com, said: “Jessica, being the defending Olympic champion, will be the hot favourite. If you look at Jess, yes, she will be 30, but how much mileage do you have on your body?
“A heptathlete does not compete day in, day out on the international circuit like other athletes. She missed the 2008 Olympics because of injury, so she had some time off and hasn’t had the year in, year out pounding of competition. She is well positioned going into the Olympics this year, fresh and confident, and as long as she stays healthy I don’t think she will have any issues.”
Ennis-Hill has been nominated for the Comeback of the Year gong at the prestigious Laureus Awards, after winning world heptathlon gold in Beijing.
“Jess was coming back from a little bit of an injury, but it was giving birth to her son that was more the issue there,” Johnson added.
“Being able to come back and win the heptathlon in fantastic fashion at the World Championships was very impressive and just speaks for the type of athlete she is.
“She had every excuse prior to the championships, but she is the kind of athlete who says ‘if I am gonna be out here, I’m going for it, I’m not making any excuses’ and that’s the sort of attitude that got her that championship last year.”
Ennis-Hill added: “I feel very honoured to be nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year award – 2015 for me was very special. To come back from having my son and win a gold medal at the World Championships in Beijing exceeded all my expectations.
“It was probably the toughest year of training I have had with so many injuries and physical changes to deal with along the way. My coach and medical team did an amazing job in getting me ready to tackle the heptathlon 13 months after Reggie was born – I still find it hard to believe I won. I would like to thank the world’s media for nominating me.”