Jessica Ennis-Hill could skip Olympic training camp over Zika virus fears

Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Jessica Ennis-Hill.

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Sheffield golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill could skip an Olympic training camp amid fears over the Zika virus.

The Olympic heptathlon champion is considering missing a preparation camp for Rio 2016 as concerns about the brain bug rise, according to a national newspaper.

The 30-year-old is apparently worried about potential health issues of the virus and spending so much time in Brazil and South America where Zika is rife.

The Daily Mail reports that Ennis-Hill might spend the vital days before she attempts to defend her title at a training camp in mainland Europe, the USA or even remain at home in Sheffield until the last possible moment.

Ennis-Hill, mother to 22-month-old Reggie, intends to have more children soon after the Olympics and is concerned about potential risks to an unborn baby.

Mums who contract Zika are much more likely to have a child born with microcephaly, an abnormal smallness of the head and brain. Recent studies also suggest the virus may increase the risk of adults developing Guillain-Barre disease, which attacks the nervous system.

This has led Ennis-Hill and her coach Toni Minichiello to think about skipping the main Team GB preparation camp in Belo Horizonte, a city in central Brazil where most of the British team will be based in the week before they travel to Rio.

Minichiello told the Daily Mail: "There’s a duty of care from me to Jessica, as a coach to an athlete. And Jessica very much wants to have more children so we’re taking it very seriously.

‘I wouldn’t send her into a war zone to compete. You pick competition that is appropriate, you pick training that’s appropriate and it would be remiss of me not to listen to the athlete when they say, “This is a bit of a worry, I’m concerned about this”.

"We are looking at a number of options. We considered going somewhere in America and flying down or somewhere in Europe but that would mean a big increase in flight time. We also looked at going straight out from Sheffield.

"Finding a preparation camp is about acclimatising so we’d have to find somewhere in the right area with a track that’s available. Any athlete moving camp would also have to self-fund, so there’s a cost implication."

Some commentators have suggested that the Olympics should be postponed or moved from Rio for fear that an influx of foreign visitors will cause the disease, spread by mosquitos, to become a worldwide epidemic.