How will Jessica Ennis celebrate? By eating lots of rubbish food and having a few glasses of wine...
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Sunday 05 August 2012
She may have had only two hours' sleep after putting her body through the two days of heroic exertions that will define the London Games but for Jessica Ennis today the afterglow of Super Saturday was still burning strongly as she told of her relief at victory - and desire for some “rubbish food”.
Sat with her gold medal firmly around her neck and wearing her trademark grin despite some "aches and soreness", the heptathlete and freshly-minted national treasure revealed how she had hidden herself away from the vast weight of expectation placed upon her diminutive shoulders.
Ennis, the postergirl of Team GB whose image has percolated to every corner of the land and across much of the globe, confessed that the pressure of her anticipated triumph had at times got to her in the months before the Olympics as she sought to reconcile the extraordinary graft of excelling at seven separate disciplines with the nation's hopes.
The 26-year-old's winning 800m run in the Olympic Stadium was watched at home by 16.3 million Britons as well as 80,000 rapturous spectators during 45 minutes that saw the host nation secure three gold medals on what was the greatest night in the history of British athletics.
Ennis said her fiance, Andy Hill, a construction worker who she met while the pair were at school, had borne the brunt of any frustrations on her way to glory.
Speaking at a Team GB press conference as she continued a victory tour of the television studios, Ennis said: "I think obviously I was really aware of all the pressure and what people were expecting me to do. Everyone was just expecting me to win so I have had a few moments at home with my fiance worrying a bit and wondering if it was all going to go right or whether something would happen and it would fall apart, so it was a huge amount of pressure."
She added: "But I wanted to make the most of that opportunity - just make sure I trained as hard as I could and delivered on those two days. Thankfully I can sit here and say that I did."
The Sheffield-born psychology graduate, whose girl next door affability and modesty has sped her progress into the nation's hearts, said she had deliberately sealed herself off from public hopes, which extended to local schoolchildren posting good luck cards through her front door.
She said: "I didn't really go on Twitter or anything like that, I just kind of shut myself off from everything because I think if you read all the things that are written about you, it can start eating away at you - you might start doubting yourself."
Once the initial tidalwave of euphoria and adoration has subsided, Ennis will find a queue of corporate suitors waiting to secure her services in return for the sort of income that will allow her to upgrade the small Sheffield house she shares with Hill.
Sports marketing experts said she can expect to at least double her income from endorsements, which already include Olay, British Airways and Jaguar.
Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University Business School, said: "She doesn't have a megabucks sports merchandise deal. Her advisers and management need to work very, very carefully now as commercially she is very, very valuable. If you're Jessica Ennis in January 2012 renegotiating a contract then that's a very different position to if you're Jessica Ennis renegotiating a contract tomorrow."
The Briton, who is planning to marry next year, laughed at suggestions that might countenance retirement but said she would not be competing in the women's sprint hurdles event - the discipline in which she set a new heptathlon world record on Friday.
Instead, the girl next door turning sporting goddess, who can expect a rapturous reception when she returns to her home city, is looking forward to some earthly pleasures.
She said: "I'm definitely going to relax, eat lots of rubbish food, have a few glasses of wine and enjoy this moment for as long as possible."
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