Jessica Ennis-Hill’s coach has admitted the 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion has chosen the right time to retire after a glittering career that also saw her crowned world champion twice. The 30-year-old from Sheffield, known as one of Britain’s most celebrated athletes having returned to the sport following the birth of her son, Reggie, in 2014, confirmed her decision to retire in a statement on Instagram on Thursday morning.
“Amazing memories…from my first world title in Berlin 2009 to Rio 2016 I’m so fortunate to have had such an amazing career within the sport I love and this has been one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make,” she wrote.
“But I know that retiring now is right. I’ve always said I want to leave my sport on a high and have no regrets, and I can truly say that. I want to thank my family and incredible team who have spent so much of their time supporting me and enabling me to achieve my dreams. Also a huge thank you to all those people who have supported and followed my career over the years x.”
After winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics, Ennis-Hill had hinted that she could be ready end her career despite next year’s World Championships being held in London’s Olympic Stadium, where she, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford contributed to a memorable Super Saturday in 2012. However, her coach Toni Minichiello – who first met Ennis-Hill as a 13-year-old at Sheffield Don Valley Stadium – believes the time was right for her to retire.
“Many sports people hold on too long. Jess has managed to avoid walking out of the stadium after failing a qualifying round,” he said
“She’s walking out of the stadium by stepping off the podium. She’s one of our sporting greats. It seems fitting this way.”
Minichiello added: “For an athlete to work from the ages of 13 to 30 and then win an Olympic medal is considered a significant achievement. For an athlete to come back from a serious injury and win a World Championship is classed as outstanding. To win gold at a home Olympics whilst carrying the expectations of a nation on your shoulders is celebrated as remarkable. To have a baby and become World Champion a year later makes you one of a very small group of elite athletes.
“To do all four in your career? Consistent doesn’t do it justice. It’s off the scale. The best ever? I’d say that’s more like it.”
Ennis-Hill’s victory in 2012 emulated Denise Lewis’ triumph at Sydney 2000 as she won by 306 points from Germany’s Lilli Schwarzkopf with a total of 6,955 but was unable to defend her title last summer, when she finished runner-up to Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam by only 35 points.
“I know it will have been incredibly difficult for Jess, but I am pleased for her that she has been able to make the decision and can now look forward to a much deserved retirement,” said British Athletics’ performance director Neil Black. “The entire performance team of coaches, athletes and support staff will miss her at events. Not only has she competed at the highest level, but she has been a warm and positive presence within the GB team and a great example to the younger team members.
“Her record as an athlete is phenomenal and that’s without considering the challenges of returning from pregnancy to win World gold and Olympic silver. I’d like to thank her not only for her contribution to the GB team over the years, but additionally for being a great person to work with, know and support.”
Ennis-Hill made her first major breakthrough at the 2006 Commonwealth Games when she won bronze behind team-mate Kelly Sotherton and went on to win gold at the 2010 European championships and took the World Indoor pentathlon title the same year.
At London 2012, she won the 100 metres hurdles before coming sixth in high jump and 10th in shot put. A personal best of 22.83sec saw her second in the 200m and Ennis-Hill was also second in the long jump before throwing 47.49m, a personal best, in the javelin to put her on the brink of the gold. She completed victory with a season’s-best of 2min 8sec in the 800m to win the race and the Olympic crown.
She took time off in 2014 to give birth to her son but returned to win the World Athletics Championships in Beijing last year having already achieved the qualifying standard for Rio. It was her second world heptathlon title after winning in 2009 and she also took silver two years later.
Sotherton was one of the first to pay tribute. “It’s sad to hear that @J_Ennis has retired before @London2017. She has achieved the pinnacle of sport & is a fabulous role model for anyone,” she wrote on Twitter.
Her current British rival, Katerina Johnson-Thompson, added: “A sad day for athletics! A real inspiration to me and so many others. Well done on a incredible career @J_Ennis.”