Video: Britain’s Track & Field Golden Girl Jessica Ennis Gets Set for her Home Games

The Heptathlete takes some time out from a TIME magazine photo shoot to discuss what the London Olympics mean to her

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Credits: Reporter/Producer Glen Levy, Camera/Editor Nick Tree, Photos Getty Images and AFP

TIME has thrown itself into the London Olympics with gusto, not settling for one but five regional covers. But Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis (who makes the cover of the Europe, Middle East and Africa editions of the magazine) laughs in the face of five, as she attempts to literally be the host nation’s golden girl by taking top spot in the heptathlon, which is a punishing seven events.

I sat down with Ennis during the recent cover shoot and it’s immediately evident upon meeting her how keen she is for the Olympics to get underway. Four years ago, Ennis had to withdraw from the Beijing Games due to three stress fractures in her right foot, and the event was won by the Ukrainian Natalya Dobrynska, who will be hoping to retain her title. Ennis will also be wary of the bronze medalist in Beijing, Russia’s Tatyana Chernova, who reeled Ennis in during the 2011 World Championships in South Korea.

The 26-year-old Ennis, who hails from Sheffield in England, exudes a quiet confidence, no doubt helped by recently breaking Denise Lewis’s British domestic heptathlon record at the Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, Austria. Almost as important: she defeated Chernova by a not inconsiderable 132 points. Ludicrously, Ennis has had to defuse the supposed suggestion from a senior figure in U.K. Athletics that she’s “fat,” and says that “things do get blown out of proportion.” For the record, Ennis looks in peak condition (and happily munches on the odd potato chip during the shoot). It’s clear that the only extra weight she’s carrying is the expectation of a nation.

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