Jessica Ennis weighs in with telling response to 'fat' critics
Jessica Ennis had a weight problem going into her Olympic heptathlon dress rehearsal here in the tranquil western corner of Austria. She certainly has one now.
The weight of expectation on the shoulders of the 8st 13lb slip of a Sheffield lass will not be inconsiderable following the major victory she achieved at the expense of her Olympic rivals in the two-day Hypo-Meeting, the annual early-season contest between the world's best all-round athletes. It just so happened that Ennis was caught before the line in the seventh and final event, the 800m, but on this occasion Tatyana Chernova, the Russian who relieved her of the World Championship title in Daegu last August, was well beaten in the overall scheme of things.
The 12-year-old British record was also well beaten. It had stood at 6,831 points to Denise Lewis since the Decastar meeting at Talence in France in July 2000 – two months before the Wolverhampton woman won the Olympic heptathlon in Sydney. Having equalled her best ever long jump mark, set a big new javelin personal best and pushed from gun to tape in the 800m yesterday, Ennis finished with a tally of 6,906 points. That put her 75 points ahead of Lewis's record and 132 points clear of Chernova.
It was an improvement of 83 points on Ennis's previous best tally and the biggest heptathlon score since the peerless Swede Carolina Kluft won her third and final World Championship crown with 7,032 points in Osaka five years ago. All of which adds up to the role of number one contender for the Olympic gold that will be on the line in London on 3 and 4 August.
No sooner had Ennis picked herself up off the floor after her exhausting effort in the 800m than a Union Flag was thrust into her hands and she was being asked whether she could emulate Lewis and follow a British record with a gleaming Olympic gold. "I don't want to even think about that yet," the 26-year-old replied. "I just want to enjoy this moment and stay focused. I know that I am in great shape and that I can build on this."
And what about the pressure of expectation back home in the two months leading up to the London Olympics? "I'll just keep doing what I have been doing," Ennis, a graduate in psychology, replied. "Everything happens for a reason. Last year didn't go to plan but it gave me a reason to work hard. So now I am just going to keep doing what I have been doing, believing in what I have been doing, and hopefully I'll get it right in London.
"It's just nice to be standing here in Götzis in Olympic year and not be injured – and to have had a really good result. I am so, so happy."
Four years ago Ennis's Olympic dreams were left in tatters in the tiny Alpine town that Daley Thompson put on the global track and field map with his world record decathlon scores in 1980 and 1982. The South Yorkshirewoman fractured her right foot in three places on the opening day of the 2008 Hypo-Meeting and missed out on the Beijing Games.
The shattering setback proved to be the making of Ennis. Within 18 months she was the world outdoor and indoor champion. She lost her outdoor crown last summer as much to a mess up in the javelin as to an inspired performance from Chernova. She lost her indoor title in Istanbul in March as much to a blip in the long jump as to the brilliance of Nataliya Dobrynska, the Ukrainian Olympic champion who was out of sorts here, finishing down in ninth with a paltry 6,311 points – understandably so, just two months after the tragic death of her husband-cum-coach.
Any suggestion that the 5ft 5in Ennis might be a shadow of her 6ft-plus rivals, however, has been dispelled by a display of consistency that has re-established her as the world leader in women's multi-events.
There was just the one wobble across the seven events here – a well below par 1.85m clearance in the high jump on Saturday. That came after a 12.81sec clocking in the 100m hurdles, Ennis' quickest ever time over the barriers in a heptathlon, and it was followed with a steady 14.51m shot putt and a stunning lifetime best 22.88sec 200m run. All of which left the Briton 221 points clear of the field at the end of the opening day.
All she needed was a solid second day to complete her pre-Olympic mission. In the end she managed much more than that, getting off to a flying start yesterday morning with a 6.51m in the long jump, matching her personal best.
Then came the javelin. In Daegu the penultimate event had been her Achilles heel. She failed to beat 40m. All of the hard winter work ironing out the kinks with her long-time coach Toni Minichiello and with the 1993 World Championship javelin bronze medallist Mick Hill came to fruition with a 47.11m throw yesterday – a personal best by 40cm.
That left Ennis needing to run the 800m in 2min 14.15sec to claim the British record, and 2:09.00 to better 6,900 points. She achieved the latter to perfection, being pipped on the line by the fast-finishing Chernova but clocking 2:09.00 exactly.
Asked whether she wanted to put down a decisive pre-Olympic marker for the benefit of Chernova and Dobrynska, the beaming new British record holder replied: "I wanted to do it for me – to prove to myself that I am capable of scoring a big score. It gives me the self-belief and the mental capacity going forward."
It also gives Ennis a place in the record books as the first British athlete to complete a hat-trick of wins here in the spiritual home of multi-events.
Lewis only triumphed here the once and Kelly Sotherton, who announced her retirement yesterday, was twice a runner-up. Thompson had just the two victories in Götzis. But then he did win the prize that Ennis will be chasing on home ground in August – Olympic gold – twice over.
Seven up: how Ennis reached new heights
Ennis clocked her fastest ever hurdles time within a heptathlon: 12.81sec. She has run 12.79sec in a one-off hurdles race.
Ennis only managed 1.85m, her worst performance since 2008. She is joint holder of the British record with a distance of 1.95m.
Making 14.51m was no more than a solid performance for Ennis – 1cm short of her best – but it is still an improvement on her marks en route to World and European golds in 2009 and 2010.
Ennis has been threatening to break 23sec for some time but 22.88sec was major progress, an improvement of 0.23sec on her best.
It may have taken her three rounds to do it, but 6.51m equalled Ennis's personal best and represented a big marker in the opening event on day two.
Ennis could only throw 39.95m at the World Championships last year. Yesterday she unleashed a lifetime best of 47.11m.
Ennis has a best of 2min 07.81sec but 2:09.00 was good enough for the British record and a 6,900-plus points score yesterday.