Jessica Ennis wins the heptathalon for England
The greatest moment of the London 2012 opening ceremony for me was the inclusion of the Empire Windrush, the ship that initiated the mass migration of Caribbean immigrants in 1948. England would not have made such a speedy recovery from WWII without the labour of Caribbean immigrants. My parents were part of this first wave of immigration that ended when the racist political leader Enoch Powell 1962 led the effort to pass the Commonwealth Immigrants Act restricting the entry of immigrants in 1962. By 1972, only holders of work permits, or people with parents or grandparents born in the UK could gain entry, effectively stemming most Caribbean immigration. Today black and mixed race people of Caribbean ancestry make up about about 3% of the population of the UK.
People of African decent have been in England since the Roman occupation. There were African people in the court of King James IV of Scotland and Queen Elizabeth I. 18th century England was home to a black population of between 10-15,000 people – mostly in major ports but also in market towns and villages across the country. Some whites who bemoan the browning of England have black ancestry. Scientist James Watson spouted nonsense about the genetic inferiority of black people and then found out he was 16 percent African, which means one of his great-grandparents was of African decent.
Although the stigma of interracial marriage is less of an issue in England. Black and mixed race British people face some of the same issues faced by African Americans in the areas of education and criminal justice. That is why the gold winning performance of Jessica Ennis means so much to Black Brits and the British population as a whole.
Jessica was born in Sheffield. Her father, originally from Jamaica, is a self-employed painter and decorator; her mother, a social worker, was born in Derbyshire. She began her athletic career at the age of ten and almost immediately began winning high jump competitions. Ennis won the national schools high jump title at the age of 14, but chose to compete in the heptathlon. This combines the high and long jump with the shot put and javelin, the 100m hurdles and running races over 200m and 800m. Her first Olympic dream ended in tears when just before Beijing in 2008 when she was forced to withdraw because of a triple fracture that threatened to end her career. After a twelve-month lay-off , Ennis returned to competition and won the Ennis won the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin and won the title of won the “Sportswoman of the Year” award from the British Sports Journalists’ Association. In 2010, she became the World Indoor Champion for the pentathlon with a new British Record, Commonwealth Record and Championship Record with score of 4,937 points, finishing ahead of all three Beijing heptathlon medal winners. Jessica was voted European Athlete of the Month three times in 2010, “Ultimate Sports Star” at the Ultimate Woman of the Year Awards from Cosmopolitan magazine for the second consecutive year and “Outstanding Female Athlete” at the Commonwealth Sports Awards.
At the 2011 World Athletics Championships Ennis finished second although she beat the gold medal winner in five of the seven events. Ennis was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to athletics. Ennis was also honored with a waxwork figure at London’s Madame Tussauds . In October of 2011 Ennis was voted Athlete of the Year for the third time by the British Athletic Writers’ Association.
Nicknamed the “Golden Girl, ” Ennis’ face was on billboards all over England promoting the upcoming games. She truncated her competition schedule to prepare for the Olympics, but still took first place in the hurdles, shot put and high jump in the 2012 World Indoor Championships, winning the silver medal. Ennis won the gold medal in the heptathlon at the London 2012 Olympic Games with a British and Commonwealth record score of 6,955 points, beating German silver medallist, Lilli Schwarzkopf by 306 points.
Ennis like many other black female athletes have faced criticism about her body. A senior figure at UK Athletics suggested Jessica was ‘fat and has too much weight.’ Ennis, who shook the slight off, joked that when she Googled her name the first thing she found was people talking about her backside. Jessica will have the last laugh since she could make around five million dollars in the next two or three years if she chose to, from sponsorship and endorsements. Ennis chose not to compete in the 100 meter hurdles, preferring to bask in the glow of her recent win. On her plans for the immediate future, she said: “I’m definitely going to relax, eat lots of rubbish food, have a few glasses of wine and enjoy this moment for as long as possible.”