Olympic heptathlon gold-medallist Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill insists a successful World Championships in London is pivotal to restoring the tarnished reputation of athletics.
The sport has been rocked over the past 18 months by a series of damaging allegations of state-sponsored doping and cover-ups which have seen Russia banned from international competition by world governing body the IAAF.
Ennis-Hill, 30, who announced her retirement in October, believes the London-based championships, which will run from 4-13 August, can have a similarly uplifting effect on athletics as London 2012 did for the Olympic Games.
“Having the World Championships in London is hugely important,” Ennis-Hill told City A.M. “We’ve had a strange time and a tough time in athletics recently with all the doping allegations and all the reports which have come out.
“People will look at athletics and think ‘what is going on?’ and it’s just so important that we showcase our amazing, clean athletes and how great we are at putting on an event like the World Championships.
“London 2012 was incredible and we know how to put on an amazing show. We’ve got that incredible stadium there so this year can absolutely recreate that buzz we had in 2012 and that feeling we had across the country.”
Ennis-Hill called time on her career after winning Olympic silver in Rio de Janeiro in August, which complemented the gold won in London four years earlier when she provided an iconic moment of Super Saturday.
The World Championships have also been a staple of Sheffield-born Ennis-Hill’s career, and despite the intensifying build-up to the event, she insists she harbours no regrets about the timing of her decision to retire.
“It’s very nice to kick back and not have to worry about training and looming dates of competition,” added Ennis-Hill.
“Nevertheless, it is quite strange. For years, my life has been all about preparing for major championships and there has always been a focus on the summer and getting ready for that big moment.
“So this is the first year in such a long time that I haven’t got that main drive or focus on one point. As I say, it’s strange but also nice because I know what it takes to get to that point and the work and preparation which needs to be done.
“Even coming into this year, I don’t have the feeling of ‘I wish I was still competing’ or ‘I wish I had gone on for another year’, I very much feel that it is the right decision.”
Prior to her name featuring on the New Year’s Honours list, Ennis-Hill was granted a retirement present in the form of a third world championship gold medal after Russia’s Tatyana Chernova was stripped of her title due to a doping offence.
Ennis-Hill finished runner-up to Chernova in Daegu in 2011, although the Russian’s results in the two years immediately prior to the event were annulled after she tested positive for a banned steroid. In November, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered Chernova to forfeit her gold.
“It was a really strange way to find out that you’ve won a gold medal, just at home doing casual things and not having that moment on the podium,” said Ennis-Hill.
“But at the same time I was just so happy because I remember feeling that huge sense of disappointment that I’d worked really hard but was not where I needed to be a year before a home Olympics.
“It just felt that everything had come together at the right time. I knew after Rio that I was ready to retire and then to have that all rectified and then to become a Dame, it has been an unreal ending to my career.”