Jessica Ennis-Hill nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MARCH 11:  Track and field athlete Jessica Ennis attends the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards at the Theatro Municipal Do Rio de Janeiro on March 11, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images For Laureus) *** Local Caption *** Jessica Ennis
 
British athletics star Jessica Ennis-Hill has been nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award. A former winner of the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, she is the current Olympic heptathlon champion and world champion. In this exclusive interview with Laureus.com, she looks back on a memorable year and looks forward to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic

Congratulations on being nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award. Can you tell us your thoughts?
It’s a huge honour for me personally. Last year was one of the greatest years of my career and for it to be recognised on a global stage like that by the world’s media is a huge honour and very exciting.

And you’re a former winner of a Laureus Award?
I think the calibre of the Nominees, and obviously winning Sportswoman of the Year and heading out to Rio [to receive the Award] in 2013, was an amazing occasion. Just being nominated among so many amazing sports people, it’s incredible. Last year, I didn’t really think about awards and or anything like that. It was really my journey about getting back in my career and back into competing, and then to be nominated for the Comeback of the Year, yes, it’s really special.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - MARCH 11: Track and field athlete Jessica Ennis with her award for 'Laureus Sportswomen of the Year' attends the Winners Press Conferences & Photocall at the Theatro Municipal Do Rio de Janeiro during the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards on March 11, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images For Laureus) *** Local Caption *** Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis with her award for Laureus Sportswomen of the Year 2013

 

It’s a strong category this year. You’ve got Lindsey Vonn, Dan Carter, Mick Fanning,  who fought off a shark attack, Michael Phelps, and of course 800 metres world champion David Rudisha?
Yes, it’s an incredible line-up. It’s so hard to pick a winner because everyone is so individual in what they have achieved and how they have come back and what they have come back from. To be honest, to be amongst those sportsmen and women, is just a great feeling.

Presumably the fact that the Laureus Awards are voted for by the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen makes it more prestigious?
Yes, I think it definitely does.  I think because the past sportsmen and women who have been in my sport and achieved amazing things in their own right, you understand the sport and know the depths of it and how hard that things are to achieve.  Yes, it definitely made it more special.

In this photo illustration the 2016 Laureus World Comeback of the Year Nominees (L-R): Jessica Ennis-Hill (UK) Athletics; Lindsey Vonn (US) Skiing; Michael Phelps (US) Swimming; Dan Carter (New Zealand) Rugby; David Rudisha (Kenya) Athletics; Mick Fanning (Australia) Surfing. The Laureus World Sports Awards take place on April 18, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Laureus)

The 2016 Laureus World Comeback of the Year Nominees (L-R): Jessica Ennis-Hill (UK) Athletics; Lindsey Vonn (US) Skiing; Michael Phelps (US) Swimming; Dan Carter (New Zealand) Rugby; David Rudisha (Kenya) Athletics; Mick Fanning (Australia) Surfing

 

Can you tell us about your memories of 2015?
Last year was like no other year I’ve experienced. I suppose the key moment for me was coming back, my first session after having [son] Reggie, and just finding my feet back after training.  I just remember having one hill session that we normally do every year at the beginning of winter training in the park I was very familiar with, and I just found it incredibly hard.  I couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I couldn’t keep up with the group. It kind of broke me down, and I kind of fell and thought to myself that hopefully this is going to be a defining 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 a key moment for me. And then obviously my competition and my experience at the World Championships, just being able to hold things together for those two days and win that gold medal.

Can you give us a flavour of the troughs and peaks, the emotional flow after Reggie arrived?  What was your mood?
I always had that determined response to fully come back and compete again.  There was never that doubt I wanted to do that.  But as I started training, I wasn’t prepared for how hard it was physically and mentally and how much it was going to take out of me.  And I definitely had those moments where I thought, ‘Oh, am I actually going to be able to get back to where I was before?’ My coach Tony Minichiello was just incredible.  He put together this programme and helped me step back in not a rushed manner.  It was very gradual, and so I was able to get to where I needed to be. But ultimately, we both had in our minds this year, then the Olympics.  It was such a stepping stone year last year, so it’s definitely right there with my achievements with the World Championships.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21: Jessica Ennis-Hill during the Vitality Series launch at Battersea Park on May 21, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Laureus)

Jessica Ennis-Hill during the Vitality Series launch at Battersea Park in May 2014

 

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You had injuries, as well as giving birth to Reggie. Was one issue significantly more important than the other?
I think it was the whole kind of feeling of how my body had changed, and the physical and mental sides of coming back from childbirth and having that time away from us.  I came back and my body was slightly different.  My ligaments were a lot looser and I had a lot of Achilles problems. I’d do a small block of training and my Achilles would flare up, and then that would settle down and then my other Achilles would flare up.  So I was kind of constantly to’ing and fro’ing through training, never really being able to put a solid block of consistent training together.  Not having that kind of chance to rest and recover, just made everything that little bit more difficult.

Going into the World Championships in Beijing, what did you think: ‘I can win gold or I’m just going to put on a good show’?
I suppose I take a lot of confidence in what Tony tells me.  He felt that I was really prepared and he felt I could go out there and contend for a medal and I know that he wouldn’t have put me in that situation if he didn’t think I was able to contend for a medal. But at the same time, I knew I had not done all the training I normally do, and normally I’m very well prepared.  But I knew that I could be competitive in that environment, but I wasn’t sure that I had the background and I’d had enough of the training and the conditioning to really put a solid performance out there.  It was really unknown and quite nerve‑racking stepping back on to the world stage again, not feeling as prepared as I normally am. But I still knew that I really wanted it.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t come back disappointed and I didn’t come back empty‑handed.  So to step away with the gold medal was more than I could ever have imagined and wished for that year.

Have you given the gold medal to Reggie?  Is it dangling over his cot?
Not quite. But I did put it around his neck as soon as I got back, and he just chewed on it for a bit.

After the World Championships, you’re now a hot favorite for the Olympics in Rio.  What are the pluses and minuses of that?
I think it’s hard because I think people will obviously expect me to just keep performing at a high level and winning gold medals.  Unfortunately it’s not that easy. And this year is going to be more challenging just because of the level of competition; everyone has stepped up their game and worked that much harder and performed that much better.  I think it’s going to be tough and I think I’m definitely not the favourite. I think there’s Brianne Theisen; and I think Katarina Johnson-Thompson – she had her disappointments last year – she’s going to want to come back this year and make amends for what happened in Beijing. It’s hard to say a favourite at this stage in the year.  I think all the girls and myself are competing, it’s a difficult one to call.

People think it’s your gold medal to lose, does that put added pressure on you or are you so experienced that you can cope with that?
I definitely think there’s pressure.  There’s always added pressure.  I don’t know I will ever feel the amount of pressure I did in 2012 [London Olympics]. It does feel slightly less this year. But every year is back to zero for me.  You kind of achieve what you achieve the year before, but then you have to step out and you have to do it again from zero points.  You have to build all the points over two days and everyone’s in that same position.  So yeah, we’ll have to see these next few months see how training is coming together.

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Just looking back to 2012. What does that mean to you? Is it something that just goes on and on with the adulation of the British public?
I have so many memories from 2012.  It was just an incredible experience, incredible Games.  And for me, it’s always that feeling that I had when I stepped out into the stadium for the first time to line up for the hurdles. Seeing that incredible crowd and seeing the stadium at that time in the morning; that feeling where you know you’re so well prepared and you know you’re not carrying any injuries and you’re ready to just perform and do what you’ve been training for, for so many years. And then obviously that feeling of crossing the line up to the 800m is like no other feeling I’ve ever felt before.  It was incredible, and I’ll never, ever forget those two days.

How is your training going?  Obviously now as a mother, does your physical and psychological approach change at all?
I definitely feel like my training has changed.  It had to change obviously as I’m getting older and not able to cope with maybe the amount of volume I did when I was in my early 20s, but at the same time, obviously having my son, as well, I’m happy to balance it and make sure that I spend as much time with him, as well. So training has changed, my perspective for competitions have also changed.  But, yeah, I think it’s definitely for the better and it’s helped me hopefully get that little bit out of my career.

How do you fit in a one‑year‑old child and training and life?
I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband and my family and his family because they all help and do a little babysitting or my mum will bring Reggie down to the track so he can watch me train and little things like that that make the difference and then it’s just making sure I’m organised in what I’m doing and yeah, just planning.

Do you have a plan for when you might want to stop?  Heptathlon is not the easiest competition, takes a lot of hard work?
I think at the moment I’m just focused on Rio and being the best prepared I can and going out there and seeing what I can do. And then it’s going to be a decision to make after Rio for me.  Whether I decide to retire after Rio or whether I decide I want to do one more year and go to the World Championships [in London] and retire after that.  But I definitely won’t be going on any longer than 2017. Yeah, it would be quite a buzz to compete there.  But again, it’s just seeing how Rio goes, how the Olympics goes and how I feel after that.

There’s a lot of pressure on young people at the moment to achieve, do you have any advice for young people?
Yes, I think there’s always pressure, especially on young people, to achieve and to try to go somewhere in their life.  I think pressure is a good thing because it drives people and it keeps you kind of pushing forward, but it’s got to be balanced.  I think when you enjoy what you do and you have good people around you to support you, then, you know, you can go on and achieve whatever you want.

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