Olympic, European and World champion, the face of London 2012 and a CBE – Jess Ennis-Hill has experienced it all. And for Ennis-Hill, the Commonwealth Youth Games played a crucial role in her development.
In 2004, the second edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games was held in Bendigo, Australia. The Commonwealth Youth Games is an opportunity for many young athletes to experience competing in a multi-sport environment for the first time, and in 2004 over 1,000 athletes met in the South-East of Australia, one of them being a 17-year-old Jess.
“It was pretty scary and it was the furthest I had ever been away from home at that age, but it was incredible. The Commonwealth Youth Games was a great competition, especially being in Australia with the amazing weather and to top it off, I got 2 Silver medals,” said Ennis-Hill.
Ennis-Hill won her two medals in the 100m hurdles and the high jump and looks back with fond memories.
“I think the Commonwealth Youth Games was really important for me in terms of developing as an athlete. It was not only an opportunity to travel to Australia, but it was also the chance to experience not just competing alongside athletics and being in a multi-sport environment.”
As a result of her Youth Games experience, Ennis-Hill was included in the Team England squad that travelled to Melbourne for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
“In 2006 I was lucky enough to qualify for the Commonwealth Games out there and lucky enough to compete and win a bronze medal. The Youth Games set me up really nicely for that because I had a taste of what to expect for senior Games”.
This year, the fifth instalment of the Commonwealth Youth Games will take place in the Samoan capital city of Apia. Some 1,000 Commonwealth athletes aged 14-18 will be competing for 107 gold medals in nine sports over five days of competition in Samoa.
Ennis-Hill believes that these young athletes can learn from this experience and develop to potentially become future stars with the support of Team England.
She said, “My advice to Team England’s young athletes is to enjoy the competition and have a great time. It’s a fantastic time in your life when you are stepping into the world of championships and you want to make the most of it and do yourself justice. It’s important to perform well but also enjoy it, so take the opportunity.”
As well as Ennis-Hill, some of England’s other highest profile sports stars have appeared at the Commonwealth Youth Games including Beth Tweddle, Danny Cipriani, Zoe Smith and James DeGale. The Youth Games provide a number of England’s emerging talent with their first exposure to an international, multi-sport environment.