Jessica Ennis - British, 25, Athletics (-)
In the build-up to every modern Olympics, one local favourite invariably becomes the face of the Games. For London 2012, it seems that Jessica Ennis will follow Cathy Freeman in 2000 and Liu Xiang in 2008: no gold medal would delight British fans more than one for the presentable presumptive frontrunner in the heptathlon.
The term ‘golden girl’ might have been coined for the 25-year-old from Sheffield. The reigning indoor and outdoor world champion, she added the European crown last year and has charmed fans and rivals alike with her affability and good grace. Her efforts in 2010 also brought a Laureus Sports Awards nomination for Sportswoman of the Year, ushering her into the elite.
Her event has taken the same step. At one time the shadow of the decathlon fell across the women’s event. That is no longer the case. The heptathlon has produced some of the most popular and glamorous stars of track and field athletics in recent championships, with Ennis the latest in a line featuring her compatriot Denise Lewis and Sweden’s Carolina Kluft. Heavily backed by Powerade and Adidas, Ennis also fronts Aviva’s sponsorship of UK Athletics and is, crucially, a huge favourite of sports editors in Britain and beyond.
After a quiet 2010, athletics moves back into its major cycle this year – world championships in Daegu in 2011 and Moscow in 2013 flank that crucial fortnight next summer. Ennis has so far built momentum with every success, and at 25, this world-class talent is reaching her peak.