Review of the year- London 2012 sporting hero

By Emma Bird.   Last Updated: 18/12/12 2:59pm

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The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were home to the most incredible sporting performances; a reflection of years of hard work, sweat and in most cases, lots of tears.

Choosing a sporting hero from the summer of 2012 has been an extremely difficult task. Should it go to a member of Team GB or an international athlete? An Olympian or a Paralympian? A male or a female?

What makes an athlete a hero though? In most cases there should be a positive result; a gold medal in this example. Yet it doesn't always have to be this way.

With Derek Derenalagi, the solider who lost both his legs to a bomb in Afghanistan, the fact that he did not make the final of his event, the F57/58 discus, was completely irrelevant in London. Having been declared dead five years ago, he entered the Olympic Stadium and the sense of pride, both from Derenalagi himself and the crowd, was immense. A medal simply did not matter.

Him being there this summer, having overcome all the odds, was what was important.

Derenalagi's story is not the only inspirational one though, with the Paralympic Games full of 'superhumans' making this choice even more difficult.

Pressure

What else counts as a heroic attribute then? It could be breaking records and making history; something that Usain Bolt, David Rudisha and Bradley Wiggins are now more than familiar with.

However, one thing that reverberated around the 2012 venues, as well as up and down Great Britain, was the vision of 'inspiring a generation'.

And it is for this reason that Jessica Ennis gets my vote for the sporting heroine of the London Olympics.

The Sheffield athlete had her face splashed across every poster and billboard throughout the UK and abroad in the lead-up to this summer's extravaganza.

She was talked about in every platform of media and she had that gold medal around her neck long before August, according to so many people.

Ennis had pressure seeping into her; an unwanted visitor that she could not dispose of. Yet, Ennis being the calm, laid-back yet focused athlete she is, took this pressure and used it to her advantage.

Having missed out on Beijing four years ago after a stress fracture in her right foot crushed her dreams of competing, the Team GB heptathlete knew what she was in London to do.

Coached by Toni Minichiello since her early teenage years, Ennis arrived in the Olympic Stadium on Friday 3rd August to a monumental welcome; her nervous smile was greeted with an invisible hug by everyone in the packed crowd.

Expectations were layered on her; she now had to deliver.

Records

Deliver she did, and not only to an adequate standard. Ennis began by destroying her personal 100m hurdles best by 0.25secs, in the fastest time set by a heptathlete in the event.

On the same day, she grabbed a second lifetime best in the 200m, 22.83 seconds, despite a slightly disappointing score in the shot put and high jump.

The final day of heptathlon competition saw Ennis continue to dominate the field, with impressive performances in the long jump and javelin.

Going into the final event, the 800m, Ennis was in a very comfortable position, yet she was taking nothing for granted and put in a stunning performance to clock 2:08.65.

The result gave her a new PB and British record of 6,955 points, with a winning margin of 327 points over world champion Tatyana Chernova.

The 26-year-old had done it. The Olympic gold medal was now in her grasp and there was never a more deserving winner.

Jessica Ennis says that she still can't believe she's the Olympic Heptathlon champion

Not only had Ennis won the Olympic title at her home Games but in doing so she became a role-model and inspiration to thousands of young children, young girls in particular, highlighting the benefits of sport and competition.

She proved in London on those two consecutive days that having ambition and a goal in life is so very important. With young girls increasingly scared to look different to their peers, she showed that a healthy, toned body is a positive not a negative.

Not only did Ennis train and compete in seven events, she coped with the enormous pressure pounding down on her shoulders for much of the four year build-up to London.

Some athletes would have cracked. Some would have had a go but not quite been up to the standard. Ennis had a go, set records, won the gold medal, and all whilst knowing that life would never be the same again.

Jessica Ennis- a very special and deserving sporting heroine.

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