University of Sheffield alum and Yorkshire’s golden girl, Jessica Ennis, made a triumphant return to the city on Friday, greeted by an ecstatic crowd of over 20,000 gathered at Barker’s Pool.
After her inspiring gold medal win in the heptathlon at London’s Olympic Games, Ennis returned to her home town to be awarded the Freedom of the City by Council Leader Julie Dore.
The people of Sheffield turned out in their thousands, proudly donning faux-gold medals and draped in British flags, and were treated to an afternoon of music before Jessica made her entrance onto the stage in Barker’s Pool to a raucous reception from the excited crowd.
A clearly overwhelmed Ennis thanked the crowd for their support: “I literally cannot believe how many people are here! Sheffield is a beautiful city, with great people. This is my home and the place that I love.”
Asked if she felt the pressure of being the ‘poster girl’ for the Olympics, Ennis admitted she had but went on to say: “This is one of the greatest moments of my life and career.”
The 26-year-old athlete showed off her medal to the huge crowd, as well as unveiling her Walk of Fame star, which had been given a gold revamp thanks to her prized win at the Games.
Ennis studied Psychology at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2007 and has trained in Sheffield ever since.
Council Leader Julie Dore commended Ennis for her loyalty to the city, and not deciding to train in America like many other athletes.
Dore said: “Thanks to Jess, Sheffield is on the international map. The legacy that she has left for Sheffield is only just beginning. She has turned the city of steel into the city of gold!”
The city was certainly transformed for the afternoon, with streets, shops and the occasional pet donning the distinctive gold of Ennis’ medal, a medal the star missed out on at Beijing in 2008 due to a foot injury.
Ennis said of the injury: “Everything happens for a reason. It made London more special for me.”
The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor John Campbell, also praised Jessica’s loyalty to her hometown. One in seven Team GB athletes trained in Sheffield, which Campbell attributed to Sheffield’s excellent sport and training facilities.
Amanda Hoggins, who had travelled with her family from Worksop to catch a glimpse of Ennis said: “I had to bring my kids to see this, she’s an inspiration and has done so much for Yorkshire.”