Jessica Ennis-Hill pregnant: London 2012 gold medalist will miss Commonwealth Games after announcing she is expecting her first child

The heptathlete will miss the Games in Glasgow later this year after confirming that she and her husband Andy Hill are expecting their first child

When the Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, who announced on Friday that she is pregnant, returns to competition after giving birth, some will wonder whether she will regain the form that saw her take gold in such thrilling style at the 2012 Games. 

The 27-year-old heptathlete may be missed at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but she intends to defend her Olympic crown. “I am 100 per cent set on returning to full time athletics once our baby is born and go for a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016,” she said.

But one of her colleagues, the English 2010 Commonwealth heptathlon champion Louise Hazel, immediately cast doubt on her assertion. “Is it possible to come back from Olympic gold as a heptathlete and go on to Rio? It throws a huge question over the continuation of a career as a heptathlete and that’s just being realistic,” she told the BBC.

Yet there are numerous recent examples of elite sportswomen not only returning to form after giving birth but going on to still greater achievements.

Paula Radcliffe won the New York marathon in November 2007, just 10 months after her first child, Isla, was born. US marathon runner Kara Goucher set a new personal best – beating her old time by more than a minute – at the 2011 Boston marathon, a year after giving birth.

The British long-distance runner Jo Pavey recorded the second-fastest time for an over 35-year-old and the second fastest time for a British athlete in the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics – watched by her three-year-old son Jacob. 

The US beach volleyball gold medallist Kerri Walsh Jennings, already a mother of two, was five weeks pregnant when competing at London 2012, while hockey player Keli Smith Puzo and modern pentathlete Mickey Kelly were just two of many mothers to compete in what were dubbed the “Women’s Games”.

Doubters may argue that there is a big difference between beach volleyball  and heptathlon. But Greg Whyte, a professor in applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University, said there was no reason why a sprint or aerobic athlete such as Ennis-Hill should not return to top form.

“Sprint athletes tend to retire earlier, so can have children after then. But that’s the only imbalance,” he said. “There is nothing to stop Ennis-Hill coming back.”

Radcliffe ran throughout both her pregnancies, while Pavey said she ran up to about three weeks before her daughter, Emily, was born last year. But the most important reason, Professor Whyte  said, is that pregnancy provides a long psychological rest from the rigours of being a top athlete.

“It is not having a baby that enables them to come back,” he added. “For me, it is the psychological importance of what amounts to a sabbatical. They don’t have to think about sports for a year – they have more important things on their minds..”

Pavey herself agreed. “There is no reason that Jess can’t come back,” she told The Independent. “She is young and has her best years ahead. In the holding camp in Portugal before the Olympics I ran some of my best ever times. I think it is because I was so happy in my personal life, and that was very motivating, and I also felt settled.”

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there