London: An entire nation had waited for the special moment of Jessica Ennis, the Team GB poster girl, winning Olympic gold.
But the face of the 2012 London Olympics had her own private moment after that fantastic stretch in the 800m run as she collapsed on the track, covered her face with her hands, and contemplated what she had just achieved.
I’m so shocked I can’t believe it. After all the hard work and disappointment of Beijing, everyone has supported me so much.”
After being helped to her feet by German competitor Julia Machtig and given a bottle of water, the tears flowed for Great Britain’s darling. So much had gone into this moment of triumph.
The pressure had been intense on the 26-year-old since she came back from a foot injury that nearly robbed the sport of a great and fantastic athlete four years ago as she watched the Beijing Games from her home in Sheffield.
However, in true Olympic spirit she had waged a great war and fought the true fight. And as she waved to the capacity crowd in the Olympic Stadium, Ennis knew she deserved every bit of the adulation.
Her time of 2:08.65 in the 800m run ensured she ended with 6,955 points over two days of competition — the fifth highest total in women’s heptathlon. But even more important for the British athlete was to keep Tatyana Chernova and current Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska at bay as they pursued her on the home run.
Ennis delivered the title in impressive style while finishing 327 points ahead of Chernova, making up for the disappointment of missing the 2008 Games.
But what might have proved crucial for her was when she got a personal best in javelin earlier on Saturday.
“I was anxious because of the long jump as it has been up and down for me this season. But I had a good jump and it was good to go into the final event of 800m with a good lead,” Ennis later admitted.
Her senior career started in 2004, and Ennis won her first major championship medal with a bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. She lost her 2009 world title to Chernova in 2011, finishing second in Daegu.
World indoor and European Championship gold medals followed in 2010 as Ennis rose to the top of the heptathlon world rankings, although a poor showing in the javelin saw her slip to a silver medal finish at the World Championships in 2011.
Second to Denise Lewis on the all-time list for British heptathletes, Ennis is the joint British record holder for women’s high jump and in second place on the all-time list for the 100-metre hurdles. “My dream was to score more than 7,000 points, but that was not to be,” she said, flashing her trademark infectious smile.
“This is my first Olympics and I’m so happy. I’ve said all year there is lots of pressure, but it’s a nice pressure. The idea was to just do everything right.”
“To come into this event with all that pressure and everyone saying you’re going to win gold was just too much for me,” she added.
But, like everything else Ennis coped with it all, and delivered in such stunning style.
“I’m so shocked I can’t believe it,” Ennis smiled.
“After all the hard work and disappointment of Beijing, everyone has supported me so much. They urged me to go for another four years and I’ve done that.”