Jessica Ennis-Hill: The making of an Olympic great

Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain celebrates during the Women's Heptathlon High Jump on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain celebrates during the Women's Heptathlon High Jump on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Ever wondered what your favourite sportspeople were like before they were super-mega-famous? Every week Tokyo 2020 will give you a glimpse into what life was like for some of the world’s greatest athletes before they were stars.

The deets

  • Name: Jessica Ennis-Hill
  • Age: 34
  • Nationality: British
  • Profession: Heptathlete

What has she achieved?

When it comes to the heptathlon, Jessica Ennis-Hill is a bonafide legend of the sport. As a three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2015) and European champion (2010), Ennis-Hill's place in heptathlon history would have already been secured. But it was her gold medal-winning victory at her home Olympics in 2012 that truly cemented her place as one of the giants of athletics.

While heptathlon was her main occupation, Ennis-Hill was no slouch when it came to individual disciplines. She is the 2010 world indoor pentathlon champion, as well as the former British record holder in the 100 metres hurdles, high jump and indoor pentathlon.

Who says you can't have it all?

Jessica Ennis-Hill at age 23
07:46

Surprising fact

At 1.65m (5 ft 5 in) tall, Ennis-Hill was considered too short to be a top heptathlete (for comparison, Carolina Klüft is 1.78m tall and reigning Olympic champ Nafissatou Thiam is 1.84m). But the Sheffield native didn't let her physical attributes get in the way of her success, making up for what she lacked in height with a strength and power that other athletes could not contend with.

"I think generally, most of the heptathletes are quite tall, quite strong, powerful," said a 23-year-old Ennis-Hill. "But obviously I'm tiny, and a little bit different."

"When I started out doing heptathlon, people questioned whether I would be very good at it, just because of my height."

"I think it's probably better to be a little bit taller, but it's not a hindrance at all."

How right she was.

What’s she up to now?

Eight years after London 2012 - and having retired in 2016 - Jessica Ennis-Hill remains one of the biggest names in British sport.

For someone who is considered sporting royalty in the UK, coming face-to-face with actual royalty must have been a somewhat fitting experience for her, as 2017 saw her appointed by the Queen as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to athletics.

Four years after winning Olympic gold, Ennis-Hill went on to win silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It would be the final swan-song of a glittering career.

She is currently involved in various philanthropic pursuits including as a patron of the Sheffield Children's Hospital charity and Barrie Wells' sports foundation.