Sheffield turns out to cheer Jess home

 

Bubbling with anticipation and bursting with pride, hundreds cheer and whoop as the screen fills with the image of the one they've come to see: the local girl-turned-national icon. Jessica Ennis, here more perhaps than anywhere, is the focus of everyone's hopes and dreams.

The Don Valley stadium in Sheffield, where as a skinny 10-year-old she took her first sporting steps, is brimming with expectation.

Jess fires the javelin to a career best of 47.49m – the savvy crowd knows this should secure her the heptathlon gold medal. Cue flag waving, smiles, hugs and toasting all round.

Patrick Smith, general manager of the stadium, is beaming. "All she's got to do is stay on her feet now and she's got it," he shouts, as he looks at the hundred or so girls and boys engaged in a variety of sports – netball, table tennis, wheelchair basketball. While the children dream of being another Olympian, Patrick is working to ensure they do it at Don Valley.

But that is for another day. Today Sheffield pays homage to its most famous sportswoman.

The smiles and relief that follow the javelin throw come after a nervous morning, with Ennis registering a tepid effort in the first round of the long jump. A strong second jump gets the crowd cheering – indeed, with events starting at 10am and finishing nearly 11 hours later, watching the heptathlon is a feat of endurance itself.

"This is a very proud day for Sheffield, and Jessica will rank alongside Sebastian Coe," the former Sheffield MP Richard Caborn crows after the javelin ends. Caught up in the growing hysteria, he points to the spot where Ennis honed her javelin skills. "I saw her nail her javelin here a couple of months ago and she's done it in London today," he says.

It is a sweet moment for Caborn, who helped to bring the World Student Games to Sheffield in 1991, which led to the creation of the stadium.

Richard and Charlotte Surridge, who are attacking their picnic with the same dedication as Ennis attacked the long jump, have come down with their three-year-old, Amelie.

Richard says: "We only decided to come down last night. It's really exciting." He adds: "Amelie cheers at the TV when we win a gold, but she doesn't understand much more." Have the Games made them think of pushing her into sport? "The second she shows any interest, I will," he says.

Graham White and friends have come well prepared. "We are here to cheer Jessica on and be part of the experience," he tells me, chair in prime position in front of the screen.

Graham explains that cost and hassle deterred them from visiting London itself and, apart from the torch relay, the natives were feeling a little left out – until today.

"I'm proud to be from Sheffield," says Chris Gregg. Claire Fearnehough's eight-year-old goes to athletics. "It's all Jessica, Jessica, Jessica," she says.

As she triumphs, hundreds of Ennis fans in the Don Valley stadium, some of whom had been here since 10am, roar her home.

Seconds after she crosses the line, Mick Thompson, the coach who first spotted her talent 16 years ago, wiping tears from his eyes, says: "She had to go and win it, she wanted to come home as a champion. I am so proud of her. This is just fantastic."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits