Athletics: British athletics' poster girl Ennis-Hill retires on a high

Briton Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrating her heptathlon gold at the 2012 London Olympics. She took silver at August's Rio Games.
Briton Jessica Ennis-Hill celebrating her heptathlon gold at the 2012 London Olympics. She took silver at August's Rio Games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Jessica Ennis-Hill's coach believes 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, known as one of Britain's most celebrated athletes having returned to the sport following the birth of her son in 2014, confirmed her decision to retire in a statement on Instagram yesterday.

"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."

After winning a silver at the Rio Olympics, she hinted that she could be ready to end her career despite next year's world championships being held in London's Olympic Stadium, where she won the Olympic heptathlon title 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."

Ennis-Hill's victory in 2012 emulated compatriot Denise Lewis' triumph at Sydney 2000 as she won by 306 points from Germany's Lilli Schwarzkopf with a total of 6,955.

But the Briton was unable to defend her title in Rio, where 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. "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."

Ennis-Hill made her first major breakthrough at the 2006 Commonwealth Games when she won bronze behind team-mate Kelly Sotherton. She went on to win gold at the 2010 European championships and took the world indoor pentathlon title the same year.

She took time off in 2014 to give birth to her son, Reggie, but returned to win the world title in Beijing last year. It was her second world title after winning in 2009 and taking 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.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'British athletics' poster girl Ennis-Hill retires on a high'. Print Edition | Subscribe