Olympic heptathlon champion eager to get back but says she’s “trying to be realistic” about her return after an almost two-year break from competition
However she performs on her return to competitive action at the Great CityGames Manchester next weekend, Jessica Ennis-Hill expects she’ll probably come away from the event a little bit disappointed with how she does “because that’s what athletes are like and that’s what I’m like”.
Coming from someone who works so hard to be the best that she can possibly be, it’s not a surprising thing to hear, though the London 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion does admit that she’s “trying to be realistic” and remind herself that it will take time for her to work her way back to the top.
Injury problems and then becoming mum to her now nine-month-old son Reggie mean that Ennis-Hill hasn’t competed since July 2013 but the 29-year-old says the time is now right for her to get back to it, starting with a 100m hurdles test on a temporary track on Deansgate next Saturday.
“I’m not going to lie, I am very nervous and I’m anxious because I haven’t stepped into that environment for a long time,” admits the Toni Minichiello-coached athlete, who is set to line up alongside British record-holder and European champion Tiffany Porter, European indoor 60m hurdles silver medallist Lucy Hatton and USA’s world champion Brianna Rollins in her first race back.
“It is going to be a quick race so it’s going to be a big challenge for my first race back but I’ve got to start somewhere,” she adds. “I’ve just got to throw myself into competitions again and get on with it.”
“I’ve just got to throw myself into competitions again and just get on with it”
On remaining realistic, she says: “I’m very aware that my last memories of competing really are around London and the Olympics when I was in the peak shape of my life so I’m just trying to be very realistic that although I really want to be back there, I’m not unfortunately going to get back there straight away at the beginning of the season, it is going to take a bit of time.”
Ennis-Hill, who has suffered little setbacks such as Achilles niggles during her competition build-up, adds: “You do put pressure on yourself and I want to be there sooner but I’m just trying to be realistic, take the steps and know that it will come and that next year is what I’m really targeting and aiming for.”
Next year is, of course, the Rio Olympics. Whether Ennis-Hill aims for it as a heptathlete or maybe as a hurdler remains to be seen but multi-events are still very much her focus right now and she heads to Gotzis at the end of May for the Hypo Meeting at which she’ll face the likes of last year’s No.1, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who broke Ennis-Hill’s British pentathlon record when winning European gold in Prague in March.
“It’s great to see the sport moving on and of course it’s going to move on in the time that I’ve been away,” says the Sheffield athlete.
On the rise of Johnson-Thompson, she adds: “It’s great to see another British athlete doing so well. But for me it’s about focusing on my own challenge. Although I’m aware of what other athletes are doing I can’t get too caught up in what they are doing and their performances because that distracts and takes away from what I’m doing.
“I’m on my own journey now and I’m on a completely different journey that I’ve never been on before. I’ve got a huge challenge and I really want to do myself justice and I want to do it properly.”
“I’ve got a huge challenge and I really want to do myself justice”
Joining Ennis-Hill on that journey is her husband, Andy, and son Reggie, and both are set to be track-side in Manchester next weekend.
“I think the nice thing is I just really want him to be a part of this,” Ennis-Hill explains when talking about her son. “He’s definitely coming to watch with my husband so he’ll be nearby, hopefully not crying! I hope he’ll be watching and enjoying!
“I just think it’s going to be such a nice feeling to step back on the track after quite a long break away from competing and have my son there and be in kind of a different part of my life, a different chapter of my life. I’m really excited.”
» The Great CityGames Manchester will be held on Saturday May 9 in Manchester city centre and will be shown live on BBC One and BBC One HD from 13:00 – 15:00. The event is part of a weekend-long celebration of sport in the city which includes Europe’s biggest 10km event, the Morrisons Great Manchester Run, on Sunday May 10