There’s never really been much logic in Sportist Towers, and there certainly wasn’t any pre-meditated thought behind the order of this profile series, but there was always going to be one that we left to last. This is it. The big one. And it comes in one highly athletic 5’5’’ package.
So many times in sport, we’re told about the pressure that follows certain athletes and teams around. The way in which individuals respond to this pressure is, we hear, what sets the genuine champions aside from the nearly-(wo)men and the also-rans. Even the steeliest, most talented of competitors can fold when the spotlight shines down.
What, then, to make of Jessica Ennis? Not only the favourite for the Gold medal in her heptathlon event, but the favourite to do so in her home Games. Not enough? How about making her the face of the entire Olympic Games? As her Canadian competitor, Jessica Zelinka, put it: London 2012 was ‘like entering a Jessica Ennis theme park’. If you’re going to crumble under pressure, it may as well be the greatest pressure a country can put on one set of shoulders.
Going in to Super Saturday – a good 24 hours before anybody would think to call it that – the pressure was unbearable, even within the most ardent of British spectators. If memory serves (and it has a horrible way of not serving when it comes to London 2012 – everything is so rose tinted), even by that point we all knew that these were going to be a genuinely special Olympics, but had Ennis failed to take the Gold that had been pre-anointed as her own a sense of sadness would undoubtedly have prevailed. Would the Olympic Stadium have screamed quite so loudly had that evening’s three Golds only been 2? The question is moot. Pressure? What pressure? Ennis stormed the Heptathlon. She dominated the competition. That face – the face that was the picture of London 2012, became the picture of 2012. Pure delight, shared in houses, at big screens, in streets across the country. I spent that evening in a restaurant for a friend’s birthday – as Ennis stormed down the home straight the entire restaurant became a screaming cacophony. Brits may not do public emotion well, but Ennis broke those barriers down too.
And what of her performance in the event itself? Forget, for a moment, the medal and look at the statistics: 3 individual event personal bests; a personal best in the event as a whole; a national record. Ennis took the heptathlon in the same way that she took London 2012. She made it her own.
Why she’ll win
The face of London 2012? Forget that. The face of 2012. Nobody else could claim that.
Why she won’t win
She’s not actively campaigned for the award in the same way that some of the other nominees have, but then again her profile’s surely high enough that she needn’t do so. Frankly the only thing stopping her is the competition. But when did that stop her before?
Sports Personality of the Year 2012 airs tonight at 7:30 on BBC1. Tune in peoples!