Human to Hero: Britain’s heptathlon medal hope Jessica Ennis


Story highlights

British heptathlete Jessica Ennis is one of the favorites to take gold at the London Olympics

Biggest inspiration in her career are her family who "got me where I am today"

Missed out on Beijing Olympics through injury; London her first time competing at games

CNN —  

Former world champion Jessica Ennis is one of Great Britain’s big medal hopes for the London 2012 Olympics.

She has established herself as one of the top competitors in the seven-discipline heptathlon event, winning the gold medal at the 2009 World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

A year later she added the World Indoor pentathlon title to a growing list of accolades, as well as the European heptathlon crown.

Having started her senior athletics career in 2006, Ennis immediately made an impact by taking bronze in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.

CNN’s Human to Hero series caught up with her during her preparations for her debut Summer Olympics in the UK capital.

Early days

“I started athletics when I was 10 years old. At that stage it was just a great opportunity to go and make loads of good friends, run around, do things and try events that I really enjoyed.

Event: Heptathlon

Hometown: Sheffield, England

Age: 25

Honors: IAAF world champion 2009, world indoor pentathlon champion 2010

Olympic appearances: 0

Daily routine: Up at 7.30 a.m. bed around 10.30-11 p.m.

Daily calories: No idea ... a lot!

How do you relax? Spend time with friends, my fiancee, take my dog out for a walk

Favorite food: Italian food ... any Italian food

“It was when I got to the age of about 14-15 that I got picked for my first Great Britain international and I saw a completely different side of athletics. Something that was my hobby now had a really competitive side to it and I thought this is something I really want to do for a long time.

“When I started I tried everything – the coach I was with wanted me to keep my options open and try all the different events and see where my talent lay. He believed in me and believed I could be a good heptathelete so I decided to give them all a go.”


“I didn’t particularly have one role model growing up. I remember watching a number of British athletes compete, it was a generation where every athlete was doing well – Seb Coe, Steve Backley, Mick Hill, Sally Gunnell – they inspired me.

“But I’m really inspired by the people around me. My family, my parents who introduced me to the sport and really got me where I am today.”

Career high

“Winning the gold medal at the (2009) world championships in Berlin after the previous year missing the (Beijing) Olympics through injury. That was a real highlight of my career.”

Ennis’ tally of 6,731 points saw her finish 238 points ahead of second-placed Jennifer Oeser from Germany and 260 ahead of Poland’s Kamila Chudzik.

Career low

“2008 was a really tough year. I was in great shape and really looking forward to my first Olympics. Then I picked up this injury that meant I would have to miss it.

“It was a real disappointment. It was the first major injury I had had as an athlete and it made me questions a lot of things and I felt really unlucky and it was really, really disappointing. It was hard to get myself up after that.”

In May 2008, Ennis withdrew from a heptathlon competition complaining of pain in her right foot. A scan revealed three stress fractures.

Sporting philosophy

“As a sportsperson you have massive highs and lows throughout your career. But it’s having the people, the support around you to get through those low points and really enjoy the high points. You’ve got to work for them, you’ve got to expect that they are going to come. It’s just about working through (low points) because you always come out the other end and that makes (winning) that little more sweet.”

London 2012

“It’s a very surreal year for all the British athletes, I think. It’s something we’ve not experienced before and it’s going to be great.”