When Jessica Ennis was 10, her life changed. It was 1996 and the schools were shut for summer. Her hometown of Sheffield was playing host to an Aviva Startrack scheme and Jessica decided to take part. She hasn’t looked back since.
Jessica was bitten by the athletics bug and a year later, at the tender age of 11, she joined the City of Sheffield Athletic Club, which gave her a springboard to progress through the junior and youth competitions. All through her youth, Jessica showed immense promise as a multi-eventer. That promise paid dividends in Berlin in 2009, when, aged 23, Jessica became the World Champion in the women’s heptathlon event with a personal best of 6,731 points.
Jessica has a reputation as being an athlete who can peak perfectly for the major championships. She made her breakthrough in 2005, winning the European Athletics Junior Championships title and improving the national junior record to 5,891 points. That same year, she also won a bronze medal in the World University Games, where she improved the national junior record again to 5,910 points.
At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Jessica improved her performance hugely, scoring 6,269 points to win the bronze medal in Melbourne. Later that year, she broke her personal best to finish eighth at the European Championships with 6,287 points.
Having established herself as a world-class multi-eventer, Jessica set another personal best at the European Indoor Championships, finishing sixth with 4,716 points. She went on to set a new personal best in the outdoor heptathlon three times that year.
At the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge in Desenzano del Garda, Italy, in 2007, Jessica won the event with a total of 6,388 points. Along the way, she equalled the British high jump record of 1.95m, a feat made all the more extraordinary by the fact that Jessica herself stands 30 centimetres shorter at 1.65m. By the end of the 2007 season, aged just 21, Jessica was ranked fourth in the world in the women’s heptathlon.
Later that year, she defeated her Team GB team-mate, Kelly Sotherton, at the European Cup in Szczecin, Poland, adding another 11 points to her personal best. In Osaka at the World Championships, Jessica finished in fourth place, just outside the medals, but with a lifetime best of 6,469 points.
In her first outdoor competition of 2009, Jessica broke her personal best, scoring 6,587 points to win by 510 points in Desenzano del Garda. This was a fantastic performance after she was forced to miss the Olympic Games in Beijing with a stress fracture in her ankle. She finished off the event with a personal best in the 800m of 2 minutes 9.88 seconds. This performance moved her to third on the UK all-time lists of heptathletes, with a score only bettered by former Olympic and Commonwealth champion, Denise Lewis (6,831 points), and former Commonwealth champion, Judy Simpson (6,623 points).
Jessica went into the 2009 World Championships in Berlin as a resounding favourite, the only British athlete to go into their event as the number one in the world that year. The pressure of being the bookie’s favourite to win didn't affect her performance. Jessica duly delivered the goods, leading from the first event through to the last and recording a life-time best of 6,731 points, exactly 100 points behind Denise Lewis' UK record, which is surely on borrowed time. Her first day score has only been bettered by Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Carolina Kluft, the two top performing women heptathletes of all time. In total, over the season she recorded six personal bests in 100m, 800m, 100m hurdles, long jump, shot and javelin.
Jessica is currently coached by Toni Minichello.
All I need is love
Jessica competes in each of these events:
- 100m hurdles
- High Jump
- Shot Put
- Long Jump
Jessica's top tip
“Focus is key, to compete in all of these events you need to be on your game and not distracted by the competition”