Updated 9 August 2008
Delloreen ENNIS-LONDON, Jamaica (100m Hurdles)
Born 5 March 1975, St Catherine
1.78 / 71kg
Coach: Lincoln London
Manager: Ricky Simms
One of the highest moments in Delloreen Ennis-London’s life is inextricably linked with one of the lowest. When the Jamaican 100m hurdler won a silver medal at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, it was her greatest achievement in athletics even to this day. When she picked up her phone three months later a voice gave her the dreaded news.
The call came to say that Delloreen’s mother had died of diabetes at 54. “I was talking to her on the phone when I won the silver and she was very excited,” Ennis-London recounted. “Her voice was strong. I went home and saw her right after the season finished then I got a call in November to say my mum passed away.
“I only got to see her in October. I wasn’t there to say goodbye and that was very hard for me. She was sickly so she was going back and forth to the hospital and it took a toll on her in the latter part. She was very young and that is what plays on me. Now I use her as my motivation to keep going forward.”
Ennis-London, who also lost her father when he was 62, still has a tight family. The mother of a six-year-old daughter, Zarina (born 14 July 2002), she also has a 13-year-old stepson, Lincoln London Junior, living in Trinidad, the son of her husband and coach, Lincoln London, a former 400m international.
One of seven siblings – she has three brothers and three sisters – only Delloreen showed promise at athletics. “I was the only one that really did track,” she said. “My other brothers and sisters ventured off into different areas. I was more like the talented one in my family.”
Delloreen showed outstanding promise from primary school age and, as her talent blossomed, she won a scholarship to St Jago High School, Spanish Town, in the parish of St Catherine. “That was the first step, getting into a high school, and a very good high school,” Ennis-London recalled. “My coach at the time was the one who told me to try out with the hurdles.
“At first it was very awkward and I remember some of the kids were laughing at me because I went over the hurdles kind of weird. I was not coordinated at that time and I was like ‘I don’t think I’m in the right thing’. But I stuck to it.” And the results came. At 17, she won the U20 100m Hurdles (13.92) at the 1992 Carifta Games, in Nassau, Bahamas. She won it again (14.53) two years later, in Bridgetown. Moving up to the seniors, she took the gold medal at the 2003 Central American and Caribbean Championships in St George’s, Grenada.
But then a serious injury interrupted her progress. “Back in 1994 I tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) on my right knee,” Ennis-London recalled. “I was playing netball. I was going for the ball and fell and kind of sat on my knee. I realised when I tried to straighten it that it was so swollen.
“That was the lowest point in my life (at that time) because I was getting ready to leave the following year out of high school to try to get a scholarship to the States. I needed surgery and, thankfully, it worked out well. I was back running 13.6 the following year and this school in Texas, Abilene Christian University, gave me a full scholarship.”
There for four years, she graduated with a degree in Management in 1999, and having made steady progress as a hurdler, she then went straight onto the professional athletics circuit. In her first year, she qualified for the World Championships, in Sevilla, finishing seventh.
Fourth in the 2000 Olympics and winner at the Central American and Caribbean Championships in 2003, Ennis-London failed to make the 2004 Olympic final but came back in 2005 to take her silver in Helsinki. Since then she hasn’t stopped winning medals – bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, gold at the 2007 Pan-American Games, bronze at the 2007 World Championships in a personal best 12.50.
Missing out on the 2003 World Championships, in Paris, counts among her lowest moments. “I came to the Paris St. Denis meet and, over the last hurdle, I twisted the same ACL knee,” she recalled. “That was my first major chance to get a gold, possibly. I was having my best year, competing with Gail Devers and beating Gail Devers.” The knee required a second operation.
Coached by her husband since 1998, the arrangement developed after injury cut short his racing career. “He ran a low 46sec but he was plagued with injury and never got the opportunity to go further,” Ennis-London said. “He started to help me so it all worked out as a blessing.
“I always tell myself that he is the best coach. He wasn’t a coach – he didn’t know anything about it. He wasn’t the coaches’ coach but I have got medals now to change that. I would never give him up for anyone else.”
On her hopes for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Ennis-London said: “Definitely my hope is the gold medal. But I look at it this way. Going to a championship and coming away with any kind of medal is a big achievement, especially in the hurdles - it is so competitive that you could make one mistake, so you never know.”
Ennis-London hopes to continue until the 2012 London Olympics, by which time she will be 37. “If I’m blessed, and I’m not injured, and still competing against the best hurdlers I don’t see any problem,” she said. “It’s like Allen Johnson – he’s old but he went to the World Indoors (2008) and got a silver (aged 37).
“I may make it to the next Olympics, I may not, but right now I’m not going to say I’m going to retire next year, I’m going to retire the following year. I will see how my body feels – if I am injury-free and running great, fine. If I’m struggling that is the time for me to walk away.”
100m Hurdles: 12.50 (2007)
60m Hurdles (i): 7.92 (2004)
100m Hurdles: 1992: 13.81; 1994: 13.96; 1996: 13.53/13.30w; 1997: 13.60/13.51w; 1998: 13.27/13.1w; 1999: 12.71/12.60w; 2000: 12.52; 2001: 12.57; 2003: 12.70; 2004: 12.51 2005: 12.57; 2006: 12.74; 2007 12.50; 2008: 12.54.
1992 SF World Junior Championships
1992 1st Carifta Games U20
1994 1st Carifta Games U20
1999 7th World Championships
2000 4th Olympic Games
2000 3rd Grand Prix Final
2003 1st Central American & Caribbean Championships
2004 SF World Indoor Championships (60m Hurdles)
2004 SF Olympic Games
2004 6th World Athletics Final
2005 2nd World Championships
2005 3rd, World Athletics Final
2006 3rd Commonwealth Games
2007 1st Pan-American Games
2007 3rd World Championships
2007 3rd World Athletics Final
Prepared by David Powell for the IAAF ‘Focus on Athletes’ project. Copyright IAAF 2008.