London 2012 Olympics: Jessica Ennis, golden girl of ‘Super Saturday’
THE golden girl of British athletics Jessica Ennis coped with the enormous pressures of the nation’s hopes by confiding her fears to her fiancé then blasting the doubts away by listening to the DJ duo Massive Attack.
The heptathlete, who became the unofficial face of London 2012 and was frightened of letting the British public down with defeat, became the highlight of “Super Saturday” – Britain’s most successful day in the Olympics for more than a century – when she won the gold medal.
The athlete’s victory came within 45 minutes of Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford’s historic feats in the 10,000 metres and the long jump, and attracted a record audience of over 16 million viewers on TV as well as a congratulatory tweet from the Prime Minister David Cameron.
Yet, behind the confident face she showed the world, Ennis admitted yesterday that the pressure was intense.
The humble 26-year-old, who appeared fresh-faced at the press conference despite only two hours’ sleep, said her fiancé Andy Hill “got the worst of it”. She said: “I think, obviously, I was really aware of all the pressure and what people were expecting me to do. Everyone was just expecting me to win, so I have had a few moments at home with my fiancé worrying a bit and wondering if it was all going to go right – the way I wanted it to – or whether something would happen and it would fall apart, so it was a huge amount of pressure.
“But again, just such a unique position that I was in and I wanted to make the most of that opportunity – just make sure I trained as hard as I could and delivered on those two days. Thankfully, I can sit here and say that I did.”
On her plans for the immediate future, she added: “I’m definitely going to relax, eat lots of rubbish food, have a few glasses of wine and enjoy this moment for as long as possible.”
The frenzied crowd in the 80,000-capacity stadium went wild as Ennis won the 800m with a sprint finish, crowning two days of tough competition in the heptathlon.
The athletics successes topped a glorious “Super Saturday” which saw three more gold medals awarded to Team GB athletes – two in rowing and yet another in the velodrome, propelling Britain to third place in the medals table.
On Saturday, Ennis wept as she stood on the podium to receive her gold medal. It came after a sensational two days for the athlete who said she tried to relax by listening her iPod, relying on RnB and the likes of Massive Attack to prepare for events. Away from the stadium, she tried not to focus on public hopes – despite seeing her own face each time she turned on the television.
She said: “I didn’t really go on Twitter or anything like that, I just kind of shut myself off from everything because I think if you read all the things that are written about you, it can start eating away at you – you might start doubting yourself. I just tried to keep really, really focused and not worry about what other people expected of me and just believed that I could do it.”
Her win came after Britain’s best day for gold medals since 1908 left Team GB with a total of 14 gold, seven silver and eight bronze, and in third place after China and the US.
Meanwhile, Rutherford, who became the first British man to win the long jump since Lynn Davies in 1964, said he had not slept since his own triumph.
“I spent most of the night, when I did manage to get home, just staring at the ceiling and trying to take in what had just happened and I still haven’t,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to come here last night and see my family and have a bit of a hug and celebrate with them a bit but I’m pretty tired now and wishing my body would shut down but it won’t. I’m still running on the adrenaline of last night, I think.”
The Prime Minister tweeted: “Awe inspiring win for Jessica Ennis. Proud to be cheering her on with the home crowd. Atmosphere electric on #SuperSaturday.”
Sir Chris Hoy wrote: “That’s how to do it!! Finish the job in style! Just superb.”
Lord Coe, the chairman of London 2012, said never in his wildest dreams did he see Jessica Ennis’s golden night unfolding in the way it did.
“I’ve never seen an athlete perform in that way, over two days, but she just walked out into the stadium on the first day and I looked at her and said, ‘You’re not going to lose this’. I’ve dreamt we’d have a night like that, but no, I don’t think in my wildest dreams I quite saw it unfolding in the way that it did.”
Yesterday, Ennis’s home city of Sheffield was buzzing with ideas to make sure her achievement can be properly marked. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is Ennis’s MP, was first out of the blocks with a call for the Olympic hero to be given the freedom of Sheffield.
Now another Lib Dem, former council leader Paul Scriven, has started a Twitter campaign to rename Tudor Square, in the city centre, in her honour. He has even suggested erecting a statue in the square, which is in front of Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre – venue of sporting heroics of a very different type as the home of the World Snooker Championships.
Others have taken to social media to suggest the Don Valley Stadium in the city should be renamed the Jessica Ennis Stadium. The stadium, which was built for the 1991 World Student Games, is where the heptathlete was first spotted, aged 10, and where she still trains.
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