Here are the finest moments in the career of heptathlon great Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
In Mel Watman’s excellent All-Time Greats of British Athletics only 21 of the 78 autobiographies are female athletes, which is partly down to the lack of competitive opportunities available to women in the early years of modern athletics. The book came out in 2006 and the last athlete in the book (done on date of birth) is Paula Radcliffe.
An updated version would clearly include Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford among the men and Christine Ohuruogu, Dina Asher-Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and, of course, Jess Ennis-Hill among the women.
Ennis-Hill can lay claim to being Britain’s only four-time global women’s champion at an Olympic event. But it is in her Olympic winning performance in 2012, where she was probably under more pressure than any other British athlete in history, that sealed her position among Britain’s greatest as she dominated the heptathlon starting with an incredible 12.54 British record in the 100m hurdles.
She missed 2013 and 2014 due to maternity leave to return to finish a competitive second in the 2016 Olympics and then retired at the age of 30 and missed the 2017 World Championships in London. In theory she reaches veteran status this month, but is not expected to make a comeback!
You would not have necessarily thought she would be a multiple global senior champion by her early results. AW members can see a full list of her multi-event competitions in the Clubhouse section of our website here.
Her first multi-events action was at the age of 13 when she finished second in her North East English Schools Athletics Association (ESAA) heat at Sheffield in 1999 and she showed improvement to finish fourth in the AAA Championships. Her English Schools final did not go as well – apart from a very good hurdles and she was only 15th.
A year stronger – adding around a metre to her shot and long jump – she won her first national title and scored over 3000 points for the first time and also won the ESAA junior girls high jump title.
In 2001 she also did her first heptathlon and finished second in the ESAA event with 4538 points. The new event for her – the javelin – was probably her weakest link at this stage as she threw just 22 metres.
The overall event was won by Phyllis Agbo (4634), who would go on to compete for England in the 2010 Commonwealth Games which was won by third-placer here, Louise Hazel (4420). Ennis controversially chose not to compete in India.
Back to 2001 she also tried the senior heptathlon specification (with 100m hurdles replacing the 80m) and she started with a 4711 score to get third in the AAA Under-20 Championships (won by Rosalyn Gonse with 4875) which gained her her first international vest and she improved again there with a solid debut, moving up to second in the 2002 AAA U20 event (behind Agbo’s 4868) and then her first 5000 pointer in an international in Switzerland.
She was also continuing to make progress in individual events then as she won the ESAA intermediate high jump event with a 1.80m leap on count-back.
The following year she was good enough to compete in the World Youth Championships and here we present that event and the major 22 events in her multi-event career which prove what a superb big-time competitor she was.
World Youth Champs, Sherbrooke, CAN, July 13, 2003: 5th 5311 (PB)
(13.86/0.6, 1.75, 10.13, 24.56/-3.0, 5.47/-0.2, 25.52)
France’s Marisa De Aniceto, who would go on to finish 19th in the London Olympic heptathlon behind Ennis, was a narrow winner. The Brit missed a medal by just 27 points, having led at the end of the first day.
World Junior Champs, Grosseto, ITA, July 17, 2004: 8th 5542 (PB)
(13.57/0.6, 1.80, 10.52, 24.23/-0.3, 5.59/0.3, 28.04, 2:19.16)
Among the very best hurdlers, high jumpers and 200m runners in the competition, she lost too much ground in the throws to be competitive but again led overnight but eventually was well over 200 points from winning a medal.
South African Justine Robbeson (5868) won with an African under-20 record largely due to a 54.16m javelin throw. Robbeson would get a Commonwealth bronze in the javelin in 2010. In 2004, Ennis also competed in the Commonwealth Youth event and was the silver medallist at both 100m hurdles and high jump.
European Junior Champs, Kaunas, LTU: July 24, 2005: 1st 5891 (PB)
(13.46/-2.0, 1.79, 11.40, 24.29/-0.9, 6.19/-0.9, 32.55, 2:17.23)
Another year stronger, she managed a score that would have won gold in Italy. Having worked hard on her second day, she had a good battle with Julia Machtig, who had won bronze in Grosseto and who went on to a 6430 PB in 2013.
The German was much better in the throws here (13.60m and 40.13m) and marginally better at long jump and 800m but lost too much ground in the other three events and Ennis won her first major title by 61 points.
World University Games, Izmir, TUR: August 16, 2005: 3rd 5910 (PB)
(13.56/-1.1, 1.87, 12.26, 24.43/0.6, 6.22/1.0, 28.94, 2:21.08)
Big improvement on her Kaunas results in the high jump and shot enabled another PB and a first senior medal. Future convicted drug cheat Lyudmyla Blonska, who would go on to win the 2006 world indoor title, was a clear winner here with 6297 points.
Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, March 22, 2006: 3rd 6269 (PB)
(13.32/2.0, 1.91, 11.87, 23.80/0.9, 6.15/-0.1, 36.39, 2:12.66)
Set a 359-point PB and started well again and was leading after a 1.91m high jump, a height sufficient to win gold in the individual event. Lost any chance of challenging team-mate Kelly Sotherton (6396) in the shot but was in the battle for second and ran her first sub-24 in the 200m and also reached new ground in the javelin and 800m but lost out on second in the final event by 29 points.
European Championships, Gothenburg, August 8, 2006: 8th 6287 (PB)
(13.33/1.0, 1.86, 12.72, 23.56/0.2, 6.19/0.5, 36.65, 2:13.45)
A good fourth in the European Cup (6170) after improved throws she again progressed in the throws here and was also the best 200m runner. But despite finishing only three points down on Sotherton, she could only finish eighth in an event easily won by over 300 points by Carolina Kluft (6740).
European Indoor Championships (pentathlon), Birmingham, March 2, 2007: 6th 4716 (PB)
(8.22, 1.91, 13.28, 6.19, 2:17.03)
It was one of the greatest combined events contests as Kluft (4944) battled with Sotherton (GB record 4927). Ennis led after two events and was in medal contention until the long jump (eventually falling 85 short of third) but did set big indoor pentathlon PBs in all five events including her first 13m shot.
Desenzano, ITA, May 6, 2007: 1st 6388 (PB)
(13.12/0.2, 1.95, 12.13, 23.68/0.6, 6.40/-0.3, 33.91, 2:14.31)
Set a 100-point PB – starting with a top class hurdles – but the big result came in the high jump as she set an outright British record 1.95m. The other events barring the long jump did not go as well but she still won by over 200 points from Marie Collonville.
Europa Cup, Szczecin, POL, July 8, 2007: 1st 6399 (PB)
(13.05/0.9, 1.87, 12.89, 23.65/3.1, 6.20/2.5, 37.38, 2:10.91)
Starting with an even better hurdles, she again trimmed her PB and this time gained her first win over Sotherton (6229) with a javelin nine metres better than the Commonwealth champion. Though the 2:10.91 800m was probably her best result.
World Championships, Osaka, JPN, August 26, 2007: 4th 6469 (PB)
(12.97/0.1, 1.89, 11.93, 23.15/0.3, 6.33/0.1, 38.07, 2:11.39)
Kluft won in a European record 7032 with Sotherton third (6510). Ennis started superbly and was the best hurdler and 200m runner but was poor in the shot and ultimately fell 41 points short of her fellow Brit. With her continual improvement (and Kluft retiring from heptathlon), she was among the favourites for Beijing. Competing in Gotzis in May 2008, she threw a PB shot (13.52m) but had to pull out injured at the end of day one which was later diagnosed as a triple stress fracture which kept her out of the Olympics won by Natalya Dobrynska (6733).
Desenzano, ITA, May 10, 2009: 1st 6587 (PB)
(12.98/0.7, 1.90, 13.19, 23.49/-0.5, 6.16/-0.4, 42.70, 2:09.88)
Made an excellent return from injury (though had to learn who to take off from her other foot in the long jump) and was solid throughout. But the closing two events went best with her first 40m javelin throw in a multi-event and first sub-2:10 800m, she won by over 500 points from Hanna Melnychenko (6077).
World Championships, Berlin, GER, August 16, 2009: 1st 6731 (PB)
(12.93/-0.4, 1.92, 14.14, 23.25/0.0, 6.28/-0.8, 43.54, 2:12.22)
Dominated from the off with a superb hurdles and high jump and then a PB shot. She was also easily best at 200m and had a 300-point lead overnight. Her second day was not at the same level though she did set a heptathlon javelin PB and ultimately won by 238 points from Jennifer Oeser (6493) with Dobrynska (6444) only fourth.
World Indoor Championships, Doha, QAT, March 13, 2010: 1st 4937 (PB)
(8.04, 1.90, 14.01, 6.44, 2:12.55)
She again stamped her class from the off beginning with a top class hurdles and was best at the high jump and produced a solid shot though Dobrynska (16.43m) fought back in contention. However, she was superior to the Ukrainian in both the last two events as her British and Championship record gave her victory by 86 points. It moved her to second all-time and was only 54 points short of Irina Belova’s world record.
European Championships, Barcelona, ESP, July 31, 2010: 1st 6823 (PB)
(12.95/1.89, 14.05, 23.21/-0.3, 6.43/1.1. 46.71, 2:10.18)
A 400-point win at Gotzis (6689) – the scene of her 2008 distress – set her up as favourite. Enjoyed a good first day and was clearly the best in three of the events and was good in the shot though Dobrynska (15.88m) moved to within 11 points after it.
Dobrynska came back in the long jump (6.56m) and javelin (49.25m) but Ennis’s fighting spirit response – heptathlon bests in both – kept her ahead and she pulled away in the 800m to win by 45 points.
Gotzis, AUT, May 29, 2011: 1st 6790
(13.03/0.0, 1.91, 13.94, 23.11/1.8, 6.37/0.5, 43.83, 2:08.48)
Was close to her PB form in Spain but just lost too much ground in the javelin but finished well with an 800m PB. Won from Antoinette Nana Djimou by a massive 381 points and set a world lead that would stand to Daegu.
World Championships, Daegu, KOR, August 30, 2011: 1st 6751
(12.94/0.4, 1.86, 14.67, 23.27/-1.5, 6.51/0.0, 39.95, 2:07.81)
Was not quite at her best after a knee injury. Made a good start in the hurdles though beaten by Hyleas Fountain’s 12.93 and Fountain was again better in the high jump (1.89m) where Ennis also injured her ankle. However for the first time in a multi event competition she went ahead in the shot and had the added bonus of a PB followed by the best 200m which put her clear at halfway on 4078, 151 ahead of main rival Tatyana Chernova, who had been inferior in all four events.
Chernova (6.61m) nicked a few points back in the long jump but the Briton did set a heptathlon PB. The Russian (52.95m) changed the contest in the javelin as Ennis who had throw 45m in warm-up had her worst heptathlon javelin throw for four years. Ennis ran a great PB 800m but Chernova stuck close and her 2:08.04 seemingly gave her a 129 point win and a 6880 score well beyond anything Ennis had achieved.
However a later re-testing in 2015 of her sample in 2009 revealed a failed test and disqualification and from this event too and Ennis retrospectively won gold by 179 points from Oeser (6572).
World Indoor Champs, Istanbul, TUR, March 9, 2012: 2nd 4965 (UK record)
(7.91, 1.87, 14.79, 6.19, 2:08.09)
Dobrynska who was out of the medals in Daegu, shocked with a world record of 5013. Ennis started brilliantly and her time would have won the silver medal in the individual event but her high jump disappointed though a shot PB kept her in contention. A poor long jump compared to Dobrynska (6.57m) meant gold was virtually out of the question as she needed to beat the Ukrainian by six seconds in the 800m.
She managed three seconds which was enough for a British record and go third all-time and overhaul Austra Skujytė (4802) who had been superior in the middle three events though she did have a disappointment in that her score came up first on the scoreboard and she briefly thought she had beaten Dobrynska.
Götzis, AUT, May 27, 2012: 1st 6906 (UK record)
(12.81/0.0, 1.85, 14.51, 22.88/1.9, 6.51/0.8, 47.11, 2:09.00)
Ennis finally got Olympic and world champion Denise Lewis’s GB record with a performance to set her up as an even bigger favourite for London. Apart from a poor high jump, she was in top form throughout highlighted by a superb hurdles and 200m PB though she also did her best javelin in a heptathlon and equalled her best in the long jump.
Olympic Games, London, August 4, 2012: 1st 6955 (UK record)
(12.54/1.3, 1.86, 14.28, 22.83/-0.3, 6.48/-0.6, 47.49, 2:08.65)
If she was nervous about being the face of the Games, and in front of an adoring 80,000 home crowd (unprecedented for a morning heptathlon), it did not show as she opened with a stunning GB record in the hurdles. It was a world record for a heptathlon and would have won gold in the individual event in Beijing. Curiously it was the first time she had ever competed in London and was her first heptathlon in Britain for a decade!
Again her high jump slightly disappointed and Skuyte (1.92m) was much the better in that and the shot (17.31m) and briefly went ahead but Ennis ran a brilliant 22.83 200m to go 184 points clear at the end of day one with easily her best ever score of 4158 points.
There was a minor wobble on day two (5.95m on her first long jump) and she had had terrible trouble with her training for the event pre Games. But a 6.40m and then 6.48m pulled her away from most of her rivals and a perfectly timed javelin PB took away any pressure and meant she could trail by 15 seconds in the 800m and still win gold. However, buoyed by being challenged by Chernova on the last bend she sprinted strongly to win her race in a thrilling roared on finale and added 49 points to her British record to go fifth all-time.
The win came in the same 45 minutes that Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah won gold on a historic night for British athletics. Lilli Schwarzkopf was a distant second (6649) over 300 points in arrears. Chernova was originally third (6628) but later removed.
World Championships, Beijing, August 20, 2015: 1st 6669
(12.91/-0.7, 1.86, 13.73, 23.42/0.2, 6.43/0.8, 42.51, 2:10.13)
Ennis did set a javelin PB in 2013 (48.33m) but missed that year’s World Championships and missed all of 2014 on maternity leave. She struggled in her first multi-event since London at Gotzis in May and was only fourth (6520) – her worst score and position since 2007 and was well beaten by Brianne Theisen-Eaton’s 6808.
The Canadian was favourite for Beijing but below her May form, the Briton was better in all of the first four events. Ennis (4005) led overnight from compatriot (and future world champion) Johnson-Thompson (3925) but the latter lost her medal chance with three fouls in the long jump as Ennis held form and finished with a 800m win to take gold by 115 points from the Canadian (6554).
Ratingen, GER, June 26, 2016: 1st 6733
(13.13/-0.8, 1.84, 14.29, 23.36/-0.3, 6.63/1.2, 44.37, 2:11.46)
Produced a good solid performance with the peak being an outright long jump PB as she won by 257 points from Carolin Schafer (6476).
Olympic Games, Rio, BRA, August 13, 2016: 2nd 6775
(12.84/0.0, 1.89, 13.86, 23.49/-0.1, 6.34/-1.2, 46.06, 2:09.07)
Started well enough with a superb hurdles but her main rival Nafissatou Thiam (only 11th in Beijing) achieved a brilliant 1.98m and was a metre better in the shot (14.91m) but the Briton was much better at 200m. The Belgian though was much better in the long jump (6.58m) and javelin (53.13m). Predictably Ennis clawed back some ground in the 800m but Thiam (6810) won by just 35 points.
60m: 7.36 (2010)
100m: 11.39 (2010)
150m: 16.99 (2010)
200m: 22.83 (2012)
800m: 2:07.81 (2011)
60m hurdles: 7.87 (2012)
100m hurdles: 12.54 (2012)
High jump: 1.95 (2007)
Long jump: 6.63 (2016)
Shot put: 14.79i (2012)
Javelin: 48.33 (2013)
Pentathlon: 4965 (2012)
Heptathlon: 6955 (2012)
» The 21 female athletes in Mel Watman’s book mentioned at the start of this article are (in order of date of birth):
Muriel Cornell (long jumper in the 1920s and 30s)
Dorothy Tyler (1936 and 1948 Olympic high jump silver medallist)
Sheila Lerwill (1952 Olympic high jump silver medallist)
Maureen Gardner (1948 Olympic 80m hurdles silver medallist)
Diane Leather (mile world record-holder)
Thelma Hopkins (1956 Olympic high jump silver medallist)
Joyce Smith (1972 International cross-country winner)
Mary Peters (1972 Olympic pentathlon champion)
Mary Rand (1964 Olympic long jump champion)
Dorothy Hyman (1960 Olympic 100m silver medallist)
Ann Packer (1964 Olympic 800m champion)
Lilian Board (1968 Olympic 400m silver medallist)
Tessa Sanderson (1984 Olympic javelin champion)
Kathy Cook (1984 Olympic 400m bronze medallist)
Fatima Whitbread (javelin world record-holder
Liz McColgan (1991 world 10,000m champion)
Sally Gunnell (1992 Olympic 400m hurdles champion)
Kelly Holmes (2004 Olympic 800m and 1500m champion)
Ashia Hansen (1999 and 2003 world indoor champion)
Denise Lewis (2000 Olympic heptathlon champion)
Paula Radcliffe (2005 world marathon champion)
Photographs by Mark Shearman
» AW subscribers can click here to visit the AW Clubhouse for more on Ennis-Hill’s achievements, from under-15 to senior level