Ennis in shape to emulate greats

They have been holding the Hypo-Meeting, the annual gathering of the world's best all-round athletes here in this quiet Austrian border town, for 35 years now.

In all that time only two Britons have emerged at the top of the global elite in Gotzis: two of the all-time greats of British track and field, Daley Thompson and Denise Lewis. Both did so in record-breaking fashion. Thompson set world records when he prevailed in the decathlon in 1980 and 1982. Lewis improved her British record when she won the heptathlon in 1997.

It will be in some celebrated footsteps, then, that Jessica Ennis will be striving to follow when she tackles the seven events of the heptathlon in the Mosle Stadion, over the course of the next two days. Having won the world title in emphatic style in Berlin last August, and followed up with a pentathlon victory at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in March, the Sheffield athlete lines up as the woman to beat in what will be the strongest heptathlon of 2010, with no global championship on the track and field calendar this summer. She also starts amid great expectation that she might eclipse the last British record that Lewis set – 6,831 points, at Talence in France in July 2000.

In the outdoor World Championships nine months ago Ennis finished just 100 points short, and Lewis, for one, will not surprised if her 10-year-old tally fails to survive the weekend. "I'm prepared for it," the Olympic-champion-turned-TV-pundit said.

At 24, having recovered in world-beating fashion from the broken right foot she suffered midway through the Gotzis heptathlon two years ago, her development is set on a seemingly endless upward curve – and she also has room for improvement yet in the long jump, javelin and shot.

"That does give me confidence, because I'm not walking away from heptathlons thinking that I've maxed out on everything," Ennis acknowledged yesterday. "Hopefully I can keep chipping away at each event and keep improving towards the London Olympics."

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