Jessica Ennis-Hill has been told to “shoot for gold” if she goes to the World Championships in nine weeks’ time.
Her coach, Toni Minichiello, believes the 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion can have only one target in Beijing – and at Rio in 2016. “She has to shoot for gold – and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way,” he said. “If you just go into it aiming for bronze, you’ll fall short. So instead, you shoot for the gold and you can be competitive – and that means a medal.”
The countdown to August’s World Championships begins in earnest now for the 29-year-old, with nine weeks left until a potential debut at the Bird’s Nest, having been denied the chance at the 2008 Olympics because of injury.
But Minichiello has yet to decide whether his athlete will definitely compete in China. A lot will depend on how the Enni-Hill’s body reacts to her first multi-event in Götzis at the weekend. It was her first heptathlon since winning gold in 2012 and she exceeded expectations by finishing fourth “The options with Beijing are that you go – or you don’t go and concentrate on Rio instead,” he said. “You only go if you can be competitive and, for us, that’s a medal.”
On the evidence of Götzis, a medal is a realistic target, meaning that, if fit, Ennis-Hill looks likely to compete.
Admittedly, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who has replaced Ennis-Hill as the world’s leading heptathlete, was missing from the Hypo-Meeting and Ennis-Hill was some 300 points down on event winner Brianne Theisen-Eaton, of Canada, but the Briton was only 27 points shy of second place.
“Put it this way, another height in the high jump – and she was mightily close to 1.89 metres – or a metre and a half in the javelin would have been enough to give her second,” added Minichiello.
Next week will be spent assessing how Ennis-Hill has recovered from seven events, in which her Olympic qualifying tally of 6,520 points would have been enough to win a medal at all but one World Championships since 2005.
Ennis-Hill has made it clear that her target after returning to action following the birth of her son, Reggie, is to win a medal, whatever the colour.
Back-to-back Olympic titles remains a possibility, although history is against her. Only two athletes have successfully defended Olympic titles after becoming mothers: Shirley Strickland in the 80m hurdles in 1956 and Françoise Mbango Etone in the triple jump in Beijing seven years ago.
Minichiello said: “Winning [Olympic gold] is a reasonable distance away. We can be competitive, and if Jess can get a winter under her belt and build on that, then why not?”
Ennis-Hill had gone to the Hypo-Meeting in Austria with the sole target of achieving the Olympic qualifying standard for Rio next year of 6,200 points, which she eclipsed comfortably.
“Passing 6,500 is a very pleasing score, particularly bearing in mind the problems she’s had and the time she’s had away,” said her coach. “Now it’s nine weeks to Beijing. Can we push that by another 100 or 200? That’s all conjecture – and there’s the small matter of Kat [Johnson-Thompson].”
Ennis-Hill is scheduled to compete at the Diamond League event in Birmingham on Sunday in both the 100m hurdles and the shot put, as long as her body recovers from her weekend exploits.Reuse content