Jade O’Dowda would love to follow in the footsteps of Jessica Ennis-Hill, writes Emily Moss

Inspired to take up athletics by Jessica Ennis-Hill’s London 2012 victory, 17-year-old Jade O’Dowda now dreams of achieving her own success in heptathlon on the global stage.

Judging by the teenager’s 5226 points heptathlon score to win the English Schools last year – a mark which took her to No.2 on the UK all-time under-17 rankings – she could be on the right path to achieve her aim.

A member of Oxford City AC, Jade was spotted by her coach – former GB heptathlete Marcia Marriott – who initially taught her to hurdle, before encouraging her into combined events. “Marcia initially called me Bambi until I had perfected my technique over the hurdles,” recalls Jade.

Before that, Jade had done Irish dancing since the age of four and her agility, coordination and balance possibly contributed to her rapid rise in heptathlon.

Now she is quick to credit her training set-up. She explains: “Marcia and her husband, Ian, who is also my coach, are fantastic people and dedicate so much of their time for nothing. There is great team spirit within the training group. Marcia and Ian are great motivators, but they also make sure we really enjoy our sport.”

It didn’t take long for Jade to start winning medals on the national stage. In 2014, she won the South of England indoor under-15 pentathlon title, before placing fifth in the English Schools. In 2015, she won her first national title in the heptathlon at the England Athletics Under-17 Championships and finished the year ranked No.2 in the UK in the age group.

After being injured during the winter, 2016 became the year Jade would really make her mark, winning English Schools, England Athletics and the SIAB Schools International combined events titles, topped with her 5226 points PB.

“One of my main targets for the season was to score over 5000, so to finally do it, it was kind of a relief and also a huge success for me, as I accomplished a target that I set for myself,” she says. “Winning my first English Schools title was the best thing ever. It’s what every young athlete wants to do. Now being ranked ahead of KJT, Denise Lewis and Jess Ennis-Hill on the all-time list is nothing short of an honour.”

This year, Jade’s immediate targets are to make a successful transition to under-20 level, with her long-term aim to represent GB at the Olympics. Judging by the family sporting success, it would appear Jade has the genes.

One of her brothers is a pro footballer, playing for Bristol City and the Republic of Ireland, while her other brother plays rugby and her sister runs a sports massage business and competes internationally in cheerleading.

Studying for her A-Levels in PE, Geography and Biology at Gosford School in Kidlington, Jade has already thought about what she would like to do in the future. “I would like to go to Loughborough University and become a physiotherapist and an elite athlete,” she explains.

You can find further performance stats on Jade on Power of 10 here.

» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk