Jessica Ennis: The poster girl of the London 2012 Olympics. No other British athlete was under more pressure than the heptathlete. Her face was the first thing arriving athletes would see on a field next to London Heathrow’s runway, sending a clear message “WELCOME TO OUR TURF #HomeAdvantage”. A massive billboard of her was outside Westfield Shopping Centre where nearly everyone entering the Olympic Park would walk past and even on her way to training in Sheffield she would drive past numerous posters and billboards portraying her in a Team GB kit.
On August 3, being the first on track in the Olympic Stadium Jess kicked off what turned out to be a historic weekend in the history of British sport. She ran an incredible 12.54s in the 100m hurdles, which would have won her gold in the individual event in Beijing and finished the day with another PB in the 200m. On Saturday August 4 Jess then heralded the start of Super Saturday, when she led the final eight heptathletes over the finishing line in the 800m, claiming the first gold of the night for Team GB. She set the tone for fellow team mates Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah who both jumped and ran to glory later that night.
Although she was the odds-on favourite for the home Olympics, the 26-year old had to prove many doubters wrong. After missing out on the Beijing Olympics due to injury and losing the 2011 World Outdoor and 2012 World Indoor titles to rivals Tatyana Chernova and Nataliya Dobrynska the pressure on the Sheffield athlete was immense.
Setting a new British Record in the world’s most prestigious multi-event meeting in Götzis, Austria in May, Jess proved her strength ahead of the Games, but critical voices feared she had peaked too early in the season. In any other event athletes have one chance to perform up to their best, however, in the multi-events there are a number of disciplines that can go wrong and could ruin an athlete’s medal chances.
Despite the huge pressure and sacrifice, Jess overwhelmed media and public with her incredibly polite personality and would never be seen without a smile on her lips in the build-up to the Games. In a year where finding the one athlete to stand out of the crowd has to be one of the hardest challenges for everyone involved, there is one thing voters have to remember: Who was the one person to be THE face of Britain and lived up to the tough challenge of living up to every Brit’s expectations? The answer lies in the lines above.