Battling Jessica Ennis-Hill is playing a waiting game
No repeat of Super Saturday for heptathlete, who must decide whether to go to Moscow
the Olympic Stadium
Sunday 28 July 2013
A year on, a different name, a different aim. There was no smile from Jessica Ennis-Hill when she was introduced to the gleeful audience shoe-horned into the Olympic Stadium, no wave, just a tension-edged stare down the home straight. A year ago she had launched her heptathlon with a statement run in the 100m hurdles, yesterday all she wanted was to get to the other end in one piece.
It was the first hurdles Ennis-Hill has run since that Friday morning when the eyes of a nervous nation focused upon her and the blue strapping around her left Achilles provided evidence as to why. That strapping was why this time she was the one feeling the strain, juggling pre-race nerves.
Ennis-Hill's 2013, with its focus on next month's world championship, has undergone a stuttering start and it may yet prove an absolute non-starter. Her participation in Moscow remains in the balance – having completed the hurdles and the long jump yesterday she and her coach, Tony Minichiello, will wait 48 hours to see how the troublesome Achilles responds, then there will be a further waiting game before a final decision is made on whether to take on the world two weeks from now. The odds do not look good.
"It was frustrating because I always want to be at my best and I'm obviously not at my best at the moment," Ennis-Hill said. "It is great to be here – I am so glad I competed and got to experience this whole crowd again but I'm definitely not where I want to be.
"[The Achilles has] been ok – it's definitely getting better. I need to see how it is tomorrow. It is that difficult decision of deciding whether I am ready enough to go and contend. I hate making decisions as well. I will have to sit down with coach and decide what is best. I was so ready last time [for the Olympics], in the best shape of my life, so to come here and not quite be ready and be a bit apprehensive about my injury is totally different."
Ennis-Hill wants to make a decision as soon as possible so she can prepare herself mentally as well as physically. It is not only the injury that threatens to keep Britain's golden girl at home. She insists she will only go to Moscow if she believes she can win gold and reclaim the title she won four years ago.
The 27-year-old was not impressed with her run in the hurdles, crossing the line fourth behind the Olympic champion Sally Pearson and Britain's Tiffany Porter, who underlined her own medal chances at the worlds. Ennis-Hill's time of 13.08sec was well adrift of the 12.54 mark she set a year ago – a time good enough to have earned gold in all but two previous Olympics – and despite her rustiness that was not good enough for the Briton.
"This was very nerve-wracking," she said. "It was my first race back and I couldn't prepare as best as I wanted. I was disappointed with my time. I'm lacking speed work at the moment, having just started training this week."
Minichiello concurred with his charge's verdict. "She will be a little bit disappointed with that time but you have to balance that with the fact she came through fourth," he said. "There are positives and negatives and we will sit down and discuss it. She's probably where you'd expect her to be at the start of the season."
The problem is, it is not the start of the season. Once the injury has been assessed tomorrow or Tuesday, Minichiello will decide whether Ennis-Hill will have another hurdles outing before Moscow – probably at a UK Women's League meeting next Saturday. The championships start on 10 August.
An hour and a half after the hurdles, and a switch of shoes from red to yellow, Ennis-Hill was noticeably more relaxed before the long jump – a wave and that familiar smile and then when she took her place on the runway she geed up the crowd, something that was by no means a necessity on an afternoon when anything that moved was greeted with rousing acclaim.
She finished eighth with a modest 6.16m – having jumped 6.26m at Loughborough earlier in the week. Once again it was not what she was looking for. "I don't want to go [to Moscow] and not be ready, not be competitive," she said. "I've got more to lose than to gain so I want to go there and be a contender."
The long jump was won by Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson, herself a champion heptathlete in the making. The 20-year-old won it with her final jump of 6.46m – creating a mini-Super Saturday moment as her winning leap coincided with Mo Farah's surge to victory – and will go to Moscow full of confidence.
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