Alison Powell, Jessica Ennis’s mum, gives an insight into the journey of her daughter through the sport
Alison Powell used to worry that the selfish streak once enjoyed by daughter Jessica Ennis as a child would ultimately be a character flaw that would hold the Sheffield heptathlete back.
But mum Alison now concedes that Ennis’ stubborn and single-minded approach to competition and training – very different to sister Carmel – has made her the athlete she is today since being spotted at a Star: Track event at Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium back in 1996, aged just ten.
Ennis, who is the poster girl for Team GB’s medal charge at this summer’s London 2012 Olympic Games, burst on to the international athletics stage in 2006, winning a bronze at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
She has since gone on to land European Championship gold in Barcelona in 2010, World Indoor gold and silver, plus World Championship silver in Daegu in 2011, but most memorably she topped the podium in Berlin in 2009.
And as she looks ahead to watching her daughter compete for London 2012 gold in July – Alison admits she couldn’t be prouder.
“I did worry at one point that she was quite selfish,” said Alison, speaking at the P&G Thank You Mum campaign that coincided with 100 days to go to the London 2012 Olympic Games. “And it’s only as time has gone on that I’ve realised that’s what makes her so successful.
“I’m really excited for her, I mean for it to be a home Olympic Games is incredible.
“I just want her to do the best that she can and be happy with that. She can’t influence what the other athletes do; she can only do the best that she can do.
“Jessica is so, so positive. If she wants something she’ll go out and get it and that has taught me a lot because I don’t think I always had that kind of inspiration to be able to those things, so just watching her achieve has opened my own mind up to what I can do.
“Lots of people used to tell me how much natural ability she had and there were one or two people who said she could go a long way in athletics but I was a bit cautious.
“I had nothing to compare it to and so I wasn’t certain if they were telling the truth and I suppose I wanted to be protective of Jessica and to make sure that people weren’t building her hopes up too much.”
As Ennis stands on the verge of writing her name forever into the history books of British athletics by claiming gold at the London Olympics – mum Alison revealed she looked a natural from the first moment she stepped out on to a track.
“We brought Jessica and Carmel to a summer camp at Don Valley in Sheffield,” she added. “It was simply a fun athletics camp for kids and it was just for two weeks in the summer.
“We joke about it now because we talk about it being cheap childcare. Jess absolutely took to it like a duck to water – she wanted to do everything and she wanted to win everything.
“Carmel comparatively just wanted to sit in the background and chat and have a laugh with friends.
“For me it’s always been about understanding your kids and trying to draw out the strengths as individuals.
“I think she was born with her determination, her desire to achieve and I think it has been my job to nurture that.
“Quietly I’m really, really proud. I can be walking down the street and think ‘yeah my daughter is a world champion and that’s enough for me’.
» Watch Alison Powell’s story. The film is part of a series called Raising an Olympian from P&G, looking at what it is like to raise a world class athlete, through the eyes of their mums.