Despite displaying a talent that most can only dream of, 26-year-old Jess found her sport only by chance.
“We took Jess and her sister Carmel to an athletics summer camp for kids, which we joke about now as being cheap child care,” Jessica’s mum Alison remembers. Neither she nor Jessica’s dad were particularly athletic so her aptitude for the activities came as something of a surprise.
“Jess wanted to do everything, Jess wanted to win everything and Carmel wanted to sit in the background and chat with her friends.”
Jess might have been driven to win from that first summer, but her mum was understandably cautious. No pushy mother here: instead Alison was more concerned with not getting her daughter’s hopes up than pressurising her to train.
It wasn’t for some time that the compliments about her daughter’s natural ability started to hit home, and Alison realised where Jessica’s future was heading.
“I was a bit cautious at first because I didn’t have anything to compare it with. But it soon became clear that Jessica’s main focus has always been that she wants to be the best in the world.
“She's so positive. If she wants something she'll go out and get it and that's taught me a lot, because I’m not always like that.”
Jessica has hit the headlines for a number of reasons in recent weeks. Firstly, she was denied a personal best for the 100m hurdles at the Great CityGames in Manchester after the organisers set out the wrong number of hurdles.
Then rumours surfaced that a senior figure at UK Athletics had branded Jessica 'fat'. The athlete has laughed off the suggestion, telling ITV1's Daybreak: "I think it's something that's been blown out of proportion a bit, I'm obviously very happy with my weight. As an athlete you want to be in great shape, you want to perform as well as you can, and that's something that I've been doing, so I think I'm quite happy."
True to her word, Jessica clearly has remained focused as she went on to break the British heptathlon record on 27 May, showing she is in great form and will be going for a home gold in August.
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