OLYMPIC gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill has revealed that she will not compete in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer because she is expecting a baby.
Heptathlete Ennis-Hill, 27, said the news had been “unexpected” but exciting and added that instead of competing in the Games, where she was tipped for another gold, she would be at home “waiting for the arrival of a little Ennis-Hill”.
Her absence from the Games will be a blow for organisers, amid doubts over star athletes Mo Farah and Usain Bolt.
In statements on her website and on social media, Ennis-Hill said she was committed to returning to her sporting career after the birth, adding that she would maintain a “steady training programme” throughout her pregnancy.
She said she would aim to defend her Olympic title in Rio in 2016, although it is also believed she could try to make her initial comeback at the world championships in Beijing in the summer of 2015.
“My plans for 2014 have been completely turned upside down, but having had a couple of weeks to think about things from a career point of view, I am 100 per cent set on returning to full-time athletics once our baby is born and go for a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 – that challenge really excites me,” she said.
“But in the short term, I will make our baby a priority and enjoy the whole experience as much as possible.
“I am sorry I won’t be in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, but know it will be an amazing occasion.”
In a separate message on her Facebook page, she added: “The one thing that has been hard is knowing I won’t be able to compete in Glasgow as I was really looking forward to it – but I will be watching and giving the event all my support in the next few months and from the sidelines (or from the sofa with my feet up) in July.”
The star said she had been feeling “very good” and had so far not had any “crazy cravings”. It is not known exactly when the baby is due.
On Twitter, Ennis-Hill responded to messages of support and congratulations. “We’re overwhelmed with all the lovely messages! So thank you all so much! We couldn’t be happier. It’s a very exciting time,” she said.
Ennis-Hill is married to Andy Hill, a construction site manager, whom she met at school in Sheffield. The pair were married in Derbyshire in a private ceremony in May last year.
However, fellow British athlete Louise Hazel, who gave up heptathlon this year to concentrate on other events, raised questions over Ennis-Hill’s ability to return to the sport.
She said: “Is it possible to be an elite sportswoman and have a baby? Yes. Is it possible to come back from Olympic gold as a heptathlete and go on to Rio? It throws a huge question over the continuation of a career as a heptathlete and that’s just being realistic. I think she’ll be able to come back and compete. The question is: in what event? Will she be able to get back to the same form she’s been showing in recent years?”
Last year, Ennis-Hill, who has been coached by Toni Minichiello since she was 11 years old, took part in the London Anniversary Games, but was forced to pull out of the British championships later in the month, as well as meetings in Edinburgh, Olso and Tallin, due to an achilles and ankle injury.
Returning to competition and high achievement as a new mother has been achieved by several sportswomen. Runner Paula Radcliffe won two New York Marathons within two years after having her first child, while Belgian Kim Clijsters won two of her three US Open tennis titles as a mother.
Who else is out?
Jessica Ennis-Hill is not the only big name who may be missing from the Games.
Long-distance runner Mo Farah has said he might skip the event to recuperate from his London Marathon debut. He also skipped the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Usain Bolt’s attendance also remains doubtful, after he said his coach had encouraged him to ditch the event.
Kenyan 800-metre world record-holder David Rudisha is yet to say.