Ennis plays catch-up ahead of test for No 1 status

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The Independent Online

Jessica Ennis has given a sitting for Madame Tussauds and her waxwork image will soon be on display alongside those of Charles Dickens, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein.

In the meantime, the planet's leading all-round female athlete has to brush aside all of the great expectations that inevitably surround her and get about the business of taking on the best of the rest of the world while still playing catch-up on the fitness front.

In committing herself to the heptathlon at the annual Hypo-Meeting at Gotzis in Austria next weekend, having only just stepped on to the competitive comeback trail, Ennis has left herself open to ending the winning streak she has enjoyed since she recovered from the triple ankle fracture that shattered her Olympic ambitions in 2008.

Although the 25-year-old world and European heptathlon champion clocked an impressive 12.88 seconds for the 100m hurdles on the sprint strip on Deansgate at the Great City Games in Manchester last Sunday, three months on from the ankle tendon injury that halted her indoor season she is still some way short of peak all-round fitness as she prepares to put her hard-earned reputation on the line against Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska of Ukraine and Beijing silver medallist Hyleas Fountain of the United States.

Ennis competes in the high jump and javelin tomorrow at the Loughborough International meeting and her performances at the Paula Radcliffe Stadium should give a good indication of her fitness for Gotzis. At Loughborough last year, a week before heading to Austria, and winning, she high jumped 1.93m and threw the javelin 43.86m.

It could be that a less than 100 per cent Ennis will be obliged to pass on the baton of world No 1 next weekend, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, the job of coaching Britain's women's relay teams, who get their first outing of the season at Loughborough tomorrow, has been passed on to Lloyd Cowan, the man who guided Christine Ohuruogu to Olympic 400m gold in 2008. UK Athletics confirmed yesterday that Russian Michael Khmel had resigned as national event coach for the sprints and relays.

Khmel was appointed in 2006, replacing Mike McFarlane, whose teenage charge Jodie Williams could eclipse Ennis as the star at Loughborough tomorrow. Williams, 17, runs in the 300m and the 4 x 100m relay.