Health: '˜I love retirement and rediscovering new things in my home city' - Jess
'Believe in yourself and get out there to pursue what you dream of.'
Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis-Hill may have retired from competitive athletics last year but she is still hoping city youngsters will follow in her footsteps in the future.
The former Olympic gold-winning heptathlete issued the call to young women as the city’s very own golden girl spoke to the Sheffield Telegraph for today’s special edition celebrating International Women’s Day - the celebrations for which continue this weekend.
While there are calls for women to be more present and visible in top business or other public roles, the mum said athletics was one area where they could already shine.
She said: “Athletics is a very fair sport - the opportunity is the same for women and men and our competition prize money is equal.
“I can honestly say that I have never felt that I have had a hard time (because of being a woman). I think International Women’s Day is a great idea as it is a time to celebrate the role women play in society. Our role has changed massively over the years and to celebrate is a great thing.
“I think over the past few years we are seeing more and more elite sportswomen in the public eye in football, rugby, hockey, boxing and track. I very much hope that this does grow as it is really good to see.”
Jessica is the most famous face to have emerged from the popular Don Valley Stadium, built in 1990 and where she began training when she was just a teenager - competing against those five years her senior at the time, such was her prowess.
The stadium was controversially demolished despite massive public protests in 2013 as part of cost-cutting measures from Sheffield Council.
During the works a section of the finishing line was dug up by the demolition team and presented to Jessica as a memento of her time training there.
The stadium has been replaced by a refurbished track in Woodbourn Road, run by Sheffield Hallam University.
However some have said that the demolition of the landmark stadium damaged the city’s Olympic legacy and meant that Sheffield may never produce another golden girl of athletics again.
Jess did not appear to agree, instead championing the existing talent in Yorkshire.
She added: “Losing Don Valley was very sad – but we do have some amazing facilities still and Yorkshire in general produces some great sports people.
“I am noticing more and more opportunities for people to do exercise – events like Parkrun with Vitality or new gyms popping up.”
It has been almost six months since Jess announced her retirement last October - saying she wanted to ‘leave on a high’ after claiming her second Olympic medal, which was a silver at Rio 2016.
Her gold for Great Britain was one of the highlights of the London 2012 Olympics.
But what is it like to be retired from a career at the age of just 31?
“I am loving it – the time was right and I have now got lots of new and exciting plans for the future – all based around fitness and wellbeing and I am loving spending time with my two year old son”, said Jess.
“I love so many different parts of the city and I’m definitely discovering new things that the city has to offer especially for kids which is great.”
Jess caused a stir when she turned out for the Hallam Parkrun, one of the city’s most popular weekly 5K runs ,just last month.
The champion strode out at Endcliffe Park, just a couple of miles from her home in Millhouses, with hundreds of other runners as she launched VitalityMove - a joint initiative with medical insurance firm Vitality - to help people throughout the country to meet their fitness goals.
She has also been spotted more around the city, as her routine has changed from constant training to future plans, and focusing on being a mum to son Reggie. Last month she was on hand to congratulate homeless charity Emmaus Sheffield at the Sheffield Voluntary Action Make a Difference Awards.
Of her new daily routine she added: “I tend to spend time with my little boy, we walk the dog, meet friends and get lots of fresh air.
“I try to fit in some exercise when Reggie is either at nursery or begin looked after by his dad – some yoga or a bike sessions.
“We love to visit Chatsworth or go swimming. Other days I travel for work – doing sponsor activity or developing some of my new projects. I would like Reggie to be proud of his mummy and to look at what I have achieved and believe that he can achieve what he puts his mind to.
“I am currently working on two running events that are aimed at families, as well as runners, and will have amazing music to create a great atmosphere – I want to see mums and kids down with their husbands and partners taking part in our miles to music and there will be 5k and 10k runs too.
“The aim is to have a really amazing atmosphere that makes the running more fun – the event is VitalityMove and we have one in Chatsworth on July 9 – come and join me.”
While a rest from relentless training is welcome for now, Jess says there is one thing that might make her wish for the madness of competitive sport.
She added: “I’m not missing it at the moment but ask me that in the summer when the World Championships is on TV!”