Jessica Ennis-Hill on top of world after amazing comeback
Jessica Ennis-Hill’s golden comeback at the World Championships meant just as much to her as London 2012, with the podium-topping display surpassing the British heptathlete’s wildest expectations just 13 months after the birth of her son.
Just four weeks ago it was still unclear whether the Olympic champion would compete in Beijing, having only returned to action in May following the arrival of Reggie last summer.
However, a promising performance at the Anniversary Games saw Ennis-Hill put herself forward for selection — a decision she justified in some style at the Bird’s Nest.
The 29-year-old edged a fascinating battle with compatriot Katarina Johnson-Thompson on Saturday to take the overnight lead, which she pushed on from with solid displays in the long jump and javelin.
Ennis-Hill did not let that golden chance slip, winning her 800 metres heat in 2 minutes 10.13 seconds to add another world crown to the one she won in Berlin six years ago — success which meant just as much as her London 2012 triumph.
“It’s really hard but they’re definitely like that,” she said, holding her hands together level. “It’s definitely one of the greatest moments of my career. I still can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.
“Me and Toni (Minichiello, coach) spoke about coming here and we only wanted to come here if I was ready to contend for a medal.
“We spoke about a bronze medal — that would be amazing — and a silver medal, but we never spoke about a gold medal. I just thought it was a little beyond me this year.”
The road to Beijing began with a bit of gentle work on her bike at home a few weeks after giving birth — a long journey which was a big reason why she dropped to the deck in tears at the end of the 800m.
“It was a reflection on the whole year really, happy that I’d gone through everything,” Ennis-Hill said after adding to Mo Farah’s 10,000m gold.
“It’s hard with a newborn at the beginning and you’re just into everything and then getting back into training and thinking about everyone that’s helped me, my family, Toni and the team around me.
“They’ve been patient and believed I can get back to this point.”
Ennis-Hill may allow herself a glass of champagne before flying home on Monday to continue the celebrations with her family, but she will still have an eye on matters in Beijing with Johnson-Thompson set to return to action.
On Thursday the 22-year-old is due to take part in the long jump — her strongest discipline, but one which proved the undoing of her heptathlon medal hopes.
Johnson-Thompson failed to record a distance after three red flags, with the last attempt particularly exasperating and resulting in an appeal that British Athletics eventually withdrew.
It extinguished her medal chances but IAAF guidelines forced her to complete the event if she was wanted to compete again this week — a harsh rule brought into sharp focus as she ambled home last in her 800m heat.
“This is the last place I wanted to be right now,” an emotional Johnson-Thompson said.
“I had to complete the 800m if I wanted to go to the long jump. That’s not my fitness (behind that slow time). I want to save my legs.”
Ennis-Hill tried to console Johnson-Thompson after the long jump and was still thinking of her team-mate after winning gold.
“It’s awful,” she said. “We’re rivals and we want to better each other, but when she did that in the long jump my heart sunk for her.
“I felt really emotional for her because when you put yourself through two days of heptathlon it’s really awful and it’s hard work.”