You achieve what you achieve one year and then you have to do it again from zero points
Congratulations on your World Championship gold last year. Does that make you the hot favourite for Rio this summer?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I think it’s hard because people will just keep on expecting me to perform at the highest level and winning gold medals every time I step out. Unfortunately it’s not that easy and this year is going to be all that more challenging because of the level of competition. Everybody steps up their game, trains that little bit harder and performs that bit better, so it’s kind of going to be more difficult. I think that I’m definitely not the favourite, it’s a difficult one to call.
What did it mean to win in Beijing at the World Championship, your first major victory as a mother?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: My coach felt I was reasonably prepared able to contend for a medal and I know he wouldn’t put me in that position without good reason. At the same time I knew I hadn’t done all the training that I normally do and I’m normally pretty well prepared, so I wasn’t sure if I had the background and enough of the training or conditioning to really put a solid performance out there. It was a case of the unknown and quite nerve-racking stepping back onto the world stage again. In saying that, I knew I really wanted it and not come back empty handed. Getting the gold medal was more than I could ever have imagined.
Having won in London in 2012, and again last year, does that create additional pressure this summer? How do you cope with that?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I definitely think there’s added pressure, there’s always going to be pressure, but I don’t think I’m ever going to feel the amount of pressure I did in 2012. So, it does feel slightly less this year, but every year is year zero for me. You achieve what you achieve one year and then you have to do it again from zero points, you have to build up and everyone’s in that same position. Yeah, we’ll just have to see it all comes together.
What is your favourite memory from London 2012?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I have so many memories from 2012, it was just an incredible experience and an incredible Games. For me, it’s that feeling I had when I stepped out into the stadium for the first time to line up for the hurdles – just seeing that incredible crowd, seeing the stadium full at that time in the morning, having that adrenaline and that feeling where you know you’re so well prepared and not carrying any injuries. Then that feeling of crossing the line was the best I’ve ever felt before, it was just incredible and I’ll never ever forget those two days in the stadium.
Did your achievement last year trump 2012, given that you did it after having your son?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: Last year was like no other year I’ve ever experienced in athletics. I suppose a few moments for me included coming back, my first few sessions after having Reggie and then trying to find my feet back into training. I just remember having one hill session we normally do every year that I’m very familiar with, and I just found it incredibly hard. I just couldn’t keep up with the pace, couldn’t keep up with the group and it just kind of broke me down. I thought to myself that this was going to be a deciding moment where it goes one way or the other. Thankfully I was able to find my feet and get back into the swing of things but that was definitely one moment, and then obviously my competition and my experiences at the World Championship, being able to hold things together for those few days and win that gold medal
Were you confident you could compete to win things again?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I think there was always that determination to come back into athletics and to compete again. There was never that doubt that I wanted to do that, but when I started training I suppose I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was physically and mentally and how much it was going to take out of me. I definitely had moments where I thought ‘Oh, am I actually going to be able to get back to where I was before?’.
It was difficult dealing with how much my body had changed, and the physical and mental sides of coming back from childbirth and having that time away from athletics. I came back and my body was slightly different and my ligaments were a lot looser. I had a lot of Achilles problems. I was never really able to put a solid block of consistent training together. Not having that time to rest and recover made everything that little bit difficult.
My coach was incredible. He put together a programme and helped me step back into athletics gradually to get where I needed to be. Ultimately, we both had the Olympics in our minds, so it definitely surprised us both with my achievements at the World Championship.
How did your training go in the build-up to Rio? And as a mother and someone who has been competing for years, has your training changed?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I definitely feel like a different athlete now. My training has changed, but it had to change as I’m getting older and you’re unable to cope with the amount or the volume I did when I was in my early 20s. At the same time, having my son as well means I’m having to balance everything so that I spend as much time with him as well. My perspective has changed, but definitely for the better and it will hopefully get the last little bit out of my career.
How do you fit in a one-year-old child and training into an athlete’s schedule?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband, my family and his family, they all help and they all do a bit of babysitting and they bring Reggie down to the track so he can watch me train and that makes a big difference. Obviously it’s all a big balancing act, so I’ve got to be organised in what I’m doing and just planning everything so that I get the best out of both worlds.
Do you have a plan for when you want to stop?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: It’s going to be a decision to make after Rio; whether I decide to retire afterwards or whether I want to do one more year and go for the World Championship and retire after that, but I definitely won’t be going on any longer than 2017.
It would be incredible to compete in London in 2017 but again it’s just seeing how Rio goes and if I feel motivated.
What drives you? Has that has changed and if so, how?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: It’s always been the drive to be the best I can be and get the most out of my career. I’m a very competitive person and I’m always wanting to make improvements and so I’m always wanting to push on that little bit in training and do better. Since having Reggie I’ve always had that feeling that I want to come back into my sport and I want Reggie to see me competing and his mum doing well. I want him to have those memories and photos that he can look back on and say: ‘Oh, look what my mum did when I was little’. That definitely motivates me and drives me at this stage of my career.
What’s the best bit of advice you could offer someone looking to get into athletics?
Jessica Ennis-Hill: I think there’s always pressure on young people to go somewhere in life and I think pressure’s a good thing; it drives people and keeps you pushing forward. However, it has to be balanced and if you enjoy what you do and if you have people around you who can support you and mentor you then you can go on and achieve whatever you want.
I think there’s always pressure on young people to go somewhere in life