Danny Hall: Mum’s the word as Jess Ennis-Hill approaches road to Rio Olympics

Jess Ennis celebrates her Olympic gold
Jess Ennis celebrates her Olympic gold

Jessica Ennis-Hill admits she doesn’t really do dreams. Of the sleep variety, anyway.

“I’m mostly so tired I’m just out in a deep sleep,” she ponders.

“If I do dream, I get my dream book out the next morning to see what it means.

“I always wonder how they come to the definitions for each thing, though.”

One wonders what her book would make of her dream-like journey so far; a fairytale wedding to her childhood sweetheart, giving birth to a baby boy, Reggie.

Oh, and medals. Sackfuls of them, actually, including the heptathlon gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Jess may not be a big dreamer, but this has been an 18 months beyond almost any imagination. She could cap it all tonight with more silverware; Sheffield’s Golden Girl is up against the likes of dressage star Charlotte Dujardin and road cyclist Lizzie Armitstead for the 2015 Sunday Times and Sky Sports Sportswomen of the Year Award.

And after becoming world heptathlon champion earlier this year, just 13 months after giving birth to Reggie, who can bet against her?

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“I was just reflecting on the whole year really,” Jess says, thinking back to her 800m win at the Bird’s Nest in Beijing which brought her gold. She collapsed in a heap after crossing the finishing line; relief, tears. Pain, too; she later revealed she’d tore a calf muscle on the home straight but didn’t stop. Instead, it made her faster.

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrates winning gold at the IAAF World Championships

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrates winning gold at the IAAF World Championships

“I was happy that I’d gone through everything. It’s hard with a newborn at the beginning and then getting back into training, and I was thinking about everyone who’s helped me - my family, my coach and the team around me. They’ve been patient and believed I can get back to this point.”

There were doubts, too; mostly from within. Jess admits her body changed, her mind changed and her priorities wavered a little, too; her pre-worlds ambition was simply to make her son proud.

“I definitely doubted myself after I had Reggie,” she told the Jonathan Ross show.

“Your body completely changes; everything changes.

Since she burst onto the scene with Melbourne Commonwealth Games bronze in 2006, Jess’s blinkered ambition was to become the finest multi-discipline athlete on earth. Mission accomplished. Reggie has softened such single-mindedness a little, but that steely determination remains - especially as the road to Rio beckons.

“I didn’t know if I would be the same athlete.

“Obviously it does take quite a while for you to get back into training and slowly get back to the form that you were in before.”

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That comeback started in the less-than-glamorous surroundings of Jess’s garage, where she did 15-minute interval runs while Reggie napped yet struggled to lift reasonable weights above her petite frame.

Every early morning run or session with coach Toni Minichiello, leaving Reggie behind with husband Andy or resorting to FaceTime with him from Beijing, is vindicated by one thing: medals.

But for Jess, there is life after the long jump, the heptathlon, Rio 2016. Her mother, Alison Powell, admits that “I did worry, at one point, that she was quite selfish” before going on to realise that this single-minded approach is what makes her daughter the athlete she is.

Since she burst onto the scene with Melbourne Commonwealth Games bronze in 2006, Jess’s blinkered ambition was to become the finest multi-discipline athlete on earth. Mission accomplished.

Reggie has softened such single-mindedness a little, but that steely determination remains - especially as the road to Rio beckons.