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.”

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain