Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill interviews her own mum

Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill interviews her own mum

What’s it really like being the mum of an Olympian? Find out as Jessica Ennis-Hill quizzes her own mum about the highs and lows.


We always look at athletes on the world stage and marvel at the effort they must have put in to get to where they are. But what about the mums who support them along the way? Driving them to training sessions at ungodly hours of the morning, keeping them strong when they feel it’s all too much, cheering them on from the sidelines…

Here Jessica Ennis-Hill talks to her own mum, Alison Powell, about the hard times – and those rewarding moments too.

Which moments most stand out in your mind?

“I think my proudest moment – and the one that always brings me to tears – is thinking back to the Olympics when you first came out of the stadium and lined up for the 100m hurdles. The crowd was absolutely unbelievable. Listening to all these people shouting out your name…

“It chokes me up now just thinking about it: when everyone’s shouting for your daughter to win it, that’s definitely my proudest moment. It was just unbelievable – I’ve never heard anything like that.”

Tell me about some of the low points along the way. How did you help me to stay strong and how did you stay strong yourself?

“The hardest time was when you missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of the stress fractures. You rang me up at work and said you had three stress fractures and couldn’t make the Olympics; you were devastated. It was heart-breaking. You’d worked so hard and all I could do is try to reassure you. You thought your career was over.

“At that time it could have been over, so for us it was all about rallying around you, keeping you occupied, keeping you mentally busy and making sure we kept you company so you weren’t on your own too much, worrying.”

Did you know that many girls drop out of sports at puberty? How did you keep me strong and positive during my teens?

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“When you started athletics, you were with going with a group of friends, which you really enjoyed. You were going once or twice a week, but gradually your friends would drop out because something more interesting would come up and they took up other hobbies. It got to the point where you was the last one and started to feel like you should do something else.

“I knew you had what it takes to do really well, so I just encouraged you to stick at it and not to worry about what your friends were doing, even if they were doing different things or you were missing out. The best advice I could give you was to just stick at what you were doing, and what you enjoy doing.”

What impact did my training schedule have on you and the rest of the family?

“I think the hardest years were from 12-18 because of trying to juggle things with your sister. You were training three or four times a week after school and I was running you down to the track, picking you up, you were eating at different times, going to competitions at weekends and I had to juggle that with Carmel’s needs.

“Sometimes your dad would go, so I could spend time with Carmel – it wasn’t fair to expect your sister to go to every competition. The balancing act between the children was the hardest bit.”

What advice would you give to the parent of a young sporting talent? Are there any ‘golden rules’?

“There will be many times when they will feel like they can’t do it anymore – they’re fatigued, physically and mentally. Preparing for any significant sports event is a really stressful thing, particularly for a child or a young adult: they will question whether they can do it – and if they want to do it. You need to remind them that they should believe in their abilities, and believe in their own talent.

“I would always tell you that it was going to be hard – but if you have a hard journey to something and it’s not just all easy sailing, then the end point is always sweeter when you are successful and it does go well.

“I would always say enjoy what you do. You’ve got to enjoy your athletics, you’ve got to enjoy your sport – and if you do that, you’ll go on to do great things.”

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