In 1936 it was Jesse Owens. In 2009 it was Jess out on her own. On the opening weekend of the World Championships, the first major track and field championships to be held in the grand Olympiastadion here since the Olympic Games of 1936, Jessica Ennis – Jess, to her friends – produced a tour de force of a performance in the women's heptathlon.
For Owens, there were four events in 1936 – 100 metres, 200m, long jump, 4x100m – and four gold medals. For Ennis, there were seven disciplines within one combined event.
By the end of the last of them, the 800m last night, the Sheffield woman was standing a whopping 238 points clear of her rivals as the undisputed world champion.
Two years ago in Osaka, Ennis missed out on a World Championship medal by one place and 41 points. Last summer she missed out on the Olympics with a triple stress fracture of the right foot that doctors told her might threaten her athletics career. The 23-year-old psychology graduate might only be 5ft 4in from head to toe but she has no shortage of mettle.
With the guidance of her coach of 11 years, Toni Minichiello, Ennis has picked up the pieces this summer and built herself into a world champion, Britain's first in the heptathlon. Denise Lewis never quite managed to achieve the feat. Her British record survived by a margin of 100 points but Ennis's victory could hardly have been more emphatic.
She crossed the line first in the 800m, clocking 2min 12.22sec, leaving her with a lifetime best tally of 6,731 points – a veritable street clear of Jennifer Oeser, who took silver with 6,493 points, much to the delight of the German crowd. Bronze went to Pole Kamila Chudzik (6,471) with the Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska of the Ukraine out of the medals in fourth (6,444).
''It's been the longest two days of my life but the best,'' Ennis said after a lap of honour rudely interrupted by Usain Bolt's stunning world record 100m run. ''I can't believe it. I'm the world champion. I feel like crying. I've dreamt so many times about becoming world champion and doing a lap of honour. It's the best feeling in the world. I was at such a low point last year. To come back from that and so strongly ... it's amazing.''
Top of the world rankings since May, when she returned to heptathlon competition with a personal best score of 6,587 points at Desenzano in Italy, Ennis had been a class apart right from the start in Berlin. She won the opening event on Saturday, the 100m hurdles, in 12.93sec, a season's best. She won the high jump too, with 1.92m, another year's best. Then she threw a lifetime best of 14.14m in the shot and clocked 23.25sec in the 200m, another season's best.
All of which left the pride of the City of Sheffield Athletics Club 307 points clear at the end of day one, ahead of Dobrynska, the woman expected to be her closest threat. The Ukrainian was a woman inspired in Beijing last summer, but in Berlin her challenge was broken before the final day.
There were a few worrying moments during the opening event yesterday when Ennis clutched an ice pack to her left thigh after taking the first of her three efforts in the long jump. After leaving the track with a best mark of 6.29m, though, the Briton laughed off the concern. ''I haven't got a problem,'' she said. ''I was just trying to keep as cool as possible.''
She managed to achieve that in every respect. With a throw of 43.54m in the javelin and a winning flourish in the 800m, Jess was home and hosed with a golden glow in Berlin.Reuse content