There were some 700 runners, jumpers and throwers competing over the three days of the Aviva World Trials and UK Championships here in the northern suburbs of Birmingham. Only one of them holds a No 1 position in the world rankings five weeks away from the World Championships in Berlin. There is not that much of Jessica Ennis – just 5ft 4in from head to toe – but on the form she has been showing of late the young Sheffield woman will be heading for the German capital as Britain's biggest hope for gold.
Last year her Olympic ambitions were shattered by a fracture of the right ankle. Twelve months on, Ennis is in the form of her life. Sitting pretty at the top of the global order of merit in the heptathlon, she bagged not one but two individual national titles yesterday, winning both the high jump and the 100m hurdles in convincing style. In doing so, the 23-year-old completed the same UK Championship double she achieved in Manchester two years ago and injected a further boost to her confidence ahead of her attempt to finish on top of the World Championships medal podium.
"I'm in a really strong position," Ennis acknowledged. "If I can hold things together, hopefully I can do well out in Berlin. It was really disappointing to miss Beijing last year but to come back in my best-ever shape has been brilliant."
Ennis started her double shift with victory in the high jump, clearing 1.91 metres before narrowly failing at 1.94m, clipping the bar with her heels on her final attempt. The Commonwealth heptathlon bronze medallist is joint holder of the British record with 1.95m but her effort yesterday was still a 1cm improvement on her season's best. "I'm a bit disappointed not to get 1.94m," she confessed, "but next time out I think I can get it." In bronze medal spot, with 1.82m, was Kelly Sotherton, the 2004 Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist, on the comeback trail following a foot injury.
Ennis had hoped to break the British record in the hurdles but finished 0.07sec shy of Angie Thorp's mark with 12.87sec. Still, it was another fine performance, with Olympic finalist Sarah Claxton a distant runner-up in 13.16sec.
There was also a fine performance in the women's 800m, Jemma Simpson hitting the front at the bell and kicking decisively clear of Jenny Meadows and Marilyn Okoro in the home straight. The Cornishwoman, who proceeded to win by almost half a second in 2min 01.16sec, has gained a measure of bit-part fame by appearing as an extra in Neighbours and The Da Vinci Code.
She was not, however, the most exotic winner of the day. Toby Sandeman, the surprise winner of the men's 200m final in 20.69sec, is an underwear model who happens to be on the books of Major Model Management of New York. On the track in Birmingham yesterday, he left the shortcomings of his rivals looking somewhat exposed.Reuse content