Don't Fear Sport: Jessica Ennis Speaks To Girls About Body Image

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JESSICA ENNIS
"It's important that girls aren't afraid of sport," says Jessica Ennis | PA

Olympic heroine Jessica Ennis believes young girls are being put off sport because of worries about the impact on their body shape and being too muscular.

The gold-winning heptathlete said some talented youngsters are wary of training as they fear they will not look the same as their friends.

Golden girl Ennis, who has been nominated for BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, told Radio Times that she too was concerned about weight training and had to be reassured by her coach that it would be worth it to win medals.

BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Nominees

Andy Murray
Ben Ainslie
Bradley Wiggins
Chris Hoy
David Weir
Ellie Simmonds
Katherine Grainger
Jessica Ennis
Mo Farah
Nicola Adams
Rory McIlroy
Sarah Storey

But the 26-year-old said she has had positive feedback from girls who have shown an interest in athletics as a result of her success.

Ennis told the magazine: "It's important that girls aren't afraid of sport. I remember when I first started doing weight training, I didn't want to be any good at it because I didn't want to be all muscly.

"My coach sat me down and said that if I had more muscles than the average woman, but won an Olympic gold medal, it would be worth it. He was right, but it's hard when you're younger and want to look like everyone else."

See more nominees here

Team GB New Year's Honours Recipients
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She went on: "There's a training group at home in Sheffield and some of the younger girls won't do weights because their friends at school aren't muscly and they don't want to be either. I'm always saying to them that strong can look good. Sport is a good thing."

Ennis suffered unkind mutterings before London 2012 that she had been carrying too much weight. But she proved to critics she was at the top of her game by triumphing, and even completed the 110m hurdle discipline in a record time for the heptathlon.

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Ennis was revealed on Monday to be one of five women on the 12-strong shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. Last year there was criticism that the judges failed to recognise achievements of women at all, but this year the likes of rower Katherine Grainger and Ellie Simmonds are on the list.

Ennis said it was important to have positive female role models, and she added: "We need more coverage of women's sport, and we need to get women involved in coaching and administration."

Olympic poster girl Ennis is among the cover stars for the new Radio Times which is out now. The magazine has published 12 different covers, each with one of the Sports Personality nominees.

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