‘Devastated’ Ennis falls victim to gold robbery
British heptathlete sees ‘victory’ taken away after computer error and poor long-jump performance
Atakoy Athletics Arena
Saturday 10 March 2012
Another World Championship multi-events denouement; another dose
of silver medal disappointment for Jessica Ennis to digest.
At the conclusion of the final event of the heptathlon at the outdoor World Championships in Daegu last August, the 800m, anguish was writ large upon the face of Sheffield's finest as she relinquished one global crown to Tatyana Chernova, of Russia. Yesterday the pained expression was cruelly delayed in the aftermath of another 800m race, the fifth and final event of the pentathlon on day one of the World Indoor Championships here in Turkey.
Ennis crossed the line first in a state of some exhaustion, gasping for air to recover from her effort before breaking into a beaming smile and holding her arms aloft in celebration as the scoreboard flashed up: 1 J Ennis GBR 4,965 CR. She had indeed amassed 4,965 points, breaking the championship record she set as the gold medal winner in Doha two years ago. Crucially, however, the computerised system had yet to feed in the 800m performance of Nataliya Dobrynska.
The Ukrainian finished third in the race but, as it swiftly transpired, she had done enough not just to relieve Ennis of a second global title in seven months but also to break Irina Belova's 20-year-old world record score of 4,991 points. The Briton smiled ruefully as the scoreboard confirmed Dobrynska's victory with a tally of 5,013 points.
"It was an awful, awful moment," Ennis said later, when asked about her post-race confusion. "I don't really know where I was in relation to Nataliya, then looked at the screen, saw my name in first position and suddenly thought 'Oh, I have won'. It was a great feeling and then it was suddenly snatched away from me in a second. I was devastated."
As Ennis and her coach, Toni Minichiello, reflect on the roller-coaster ride of the five events yesterday they will doubtless lament another one that got away. Dobrynska might have risen to the occasion with a timely reproduction of the form that took her to a surprise Olympic heptathlon gold in Beijing four years ago but, as in Daegu last summer, Ennis paid the price for messing up in the penultimate event.
In South Korea she wobbled in the hurdles and the high jump but seriously slipped up in the javelin. Yesterday she was again below par in the high jump and made a hash of the long jump. Had she emulated the 6.47m she jumped in Birmingham three weeks ago, she would have had 89 more points, another gold medal and a world record.
As it was, the former British golden girl was left with another silver medal lining, five months out from the Olympic heptathlon in London. "I'm absolutely gutted," Ennis said, "but at the same time I'm pleased with a national record, so I can't grumble too much.
"I am going to take a bit of a break, then work on what I can to come back stronger. I need to make sure I learn from these experiences, and turn silver into gold this summer. I know I can make improvements. I am not at my limit."
Ennis could hardly have got off to a much better start in what had been anticipated as another head-to-head for the gold with Chernova. She won the 60m hurdles in 7.91sec, her second-fastest time, taking a lead of 86 points.
Then came the high jump and a clearance of 1.87m, 8cm down on her British outdoor record height. The South Yorkshirewoman rallied with a lifetime best of 14.79m in the shot but proceeded to falter in the long jump, registering two fouls and a desperately disappointing 6.19m. In doing so, she dropped down to third place in the overall standings, behind Dobrynska, who jumped 6.57m, and the Lithuanian Austra Skujyte.
That left Ennis needing to finish 6.48sec clear of Dobrynska in the 800m to salvage the gold. Roared on by a sizeable contingent of British fans, she won the race in 2min 8.09sec, an indoor personal best, but Dobrynska was only 3.06sec behind.
"Dobrynska has the knack of being brilliant in Olympic year, dropping below par and then coming out and breaking world records and winning gold medals," Ennis reflected. "She's in great form."
She is indeed – unlike Chernova, whose golden form from Daegu last summer faded into a fifth-place finish here.
"I don't like to be a favourite," Dobrynska said, when asked about the pre-championship focus on Ennis and Chernova. "I prefer it when I am in the shadow, not being highlighted. That's good for me."
It was also a good day for the Seychelles representative in the men's 800m. Gaylord Silly, a tree surgeon by trade, finished fifth and last in his heat but succeeded in making a name for himself, clocking a national record of 1min 54.93sec.
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