In the Olympiastadion in Berlin last August it took Usain Bolt to stop Jessica Ennis in her tracks. The Sheffield woman was halfway round her lap of honour after securing her emphatic heptathlon victory at the outdoor World Championships when the Lightning Bolt got to his marks for the 100m final. Yesterday, in the Aspire Dome here in the capital of Qatar, there was to be no stealing of her thunder by the fastest man at the World Indoor Championships.
Happily, that happened to be a fellow member of the Great Britain team, but, thanks to the scheduling of events, Ennis already had the pentathlon gold medal hanging from her neck by the time Dwain Chambers blasted to victory in the 60m final. Two global golds in an hour and 40 minutes for Great Britain, with the chance of a third today from Jenny Meadows in the 800m. Two in seven months for Ennis.
We can only hope they keep coming London bus-style in 2012, although Chambers, of course, will not be going for Olympic gold on home ground in two years time, thanks to his past doping deeds. Barring injury, Ennis will be there and on the form she showed yesterday it will take Carolina Kluft coming out of multi-event retirement to stop the diminutive Yorkshirewoman from standing – metaphorically – tall on the top step of the podium.
While Chambers was a class apart in winning his first world title, at the grand old age of 31, he did not have to beat the very best of the planet's speed merchants. Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell do not do indoor competition. Ennis had to beat the trio who claimed the heptathlon medals in the Beijing Olympics she missed because of a career-threatening foot fracture. She did so in style, narrowly missing the 18-year-old pentathlon world record held by the Russian doping offender Irina Belova but eclipsing the World Indoor Championship record that belonged to Kluft, the peerless Swedish all-rounder who now competes purely as a long jump specialist.
What gave an even brighter gleam to Ennis's gold was that her performance came after a foot injury that kept her out of the competitive arena for six weeks. It was little wonder her vanquished rivals looked so deflated. By the time 2012 comes round, the chances are that the British golden girl will be more formidable than she proved to be over the course of the five events yesterday. At 24, she is seemingly set on a steep upward curve under the guidance of her long-time coach, Toni Minichiello.
"Every road is a path to London," Ennis said in the aftermath, keeping her sights on the bigger picture. For the time being she can reflect with pride on becoming the first female British athlete to hold world titles indoors and out, and only the third to secure a world indoor crown, after Yvonne Murray and Ashia Hansen.
"It's mad; I can't believe it," Ennis said. "It's hard, with everyone expecting you to win after having a good year last year. I'm just glad I've delivered and brought home a gold again. After missing Beijing, finishing ahead of the medal winners here was something special. I'm made up."
She had every right to be. After opening with a clear win and a swift 8.04sec clocking in the 60m hurdles the woman from the Steel City had to show her mettle after a first time failure at 1.84m in the high jump, succeeding at the second attempt and going on to clear 1.90m. She then produced an indoor personal best of 14.01m in the shot before briefly dropping to third in the overall standings after a modest opening effort of 5.98m in the long jump. A second round leap of 6.44m, a personal best indoors or out, effectively nailed the gold medal.
It also left the Briton with a shot at Belova's world record of 4,991 points going into the final event, the 800m. Needing to clock 2min 08.78sec, Ennis was on schedule until half-way but then the day's toil took its toll. Crossing the line in 2:12.55, she finished on 4,937 points, 86 clear of Nataliya Dobrynska, the Ukrainian who took Olympic gold two years ago. The other medallists from Beijing, Tatyana Chernova of Russia and Hyleas Fountain of the US, were third and fourth respectively. "The world record was in my sights," said Ennis. "I did everything I could to get it." Another 55 points would have earned a £32,500 world record bonus to go with the £26,500 winner's prize.
Chambers, still re-paying prize money won while he was under steroid influence, could have done with both amounts but finished a good way shy of Maurice Greene's 60m global mark, 6.39sec. Still, having been through the mill – or having put himself through it – the Belgrave Harrier had reason to be happy with the clear victory he gained in 6.46sec, finishing 0.05sec clear of the American Mike Rodgers.
More than happy, considering he was a failed American football trialist two-and-a-half years ago. Could he have imagined then that he would be a world champion? "God, no," Chambers replied. "I was even throwing a bottle up in the air, trying to get my football skills, but it didn't work. So this is where I'm at now. I'm just a happy man... a really happy man."Reuse content