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: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea