It took the intervention of the penultimate barrier in the 100m hurdles final to deny Lolo Jones Olympic gold in Beijing 17 months ago. In the Kelvin Hall arena yesterday it was Jessica Ennis – just 5ft 4in in height but fast becoming a giant in stature in the track and field world – that sent the great American hurdler crashing to earth. On this occasion, in the Aviva International, the traditional curtain- raiser to the top-level indoor season, the fall was metaphorical, but it was a mighty one nonetheless.
"Shoot!" Jones exclaimed in the aftermath of her shock 60m hurdles defeat to the Great Britain team captain. "Letting a heptathlete, who practises every event, beat me when I'm only working on one thing... that's kind of crazy." It is that. Ennis might have struck gold at the World Championships in Berlin last summer but that was as an all-rounder, in the seven-event heptathlon. Jones is not just a hurdles specialist but one of the best in the business: the reigning world indoor champion and so good she cannot recall the last time she was beaten by a rival in an indoor race. For the record, it was in Karlsruhe in February 2008, and Susanna Kallur had to break the world record to do it.
In claiming Jones' scalp – blasting out of the blocks and more than matching her stride for stride, edging victory by 0.02sec – Ennis demonstrated the new-found basic speed that took her to the North of England 60m title two weeks ago. The new, improved Ennis looked a million dollars and collected a $5,000 (£3,100) bonus for smashing through the eight second barrier with a British record time of 7.95sec. She also pocketed $4,000 for winning, plus the $1,500 prize for performance of the day.
"I can't believe I won," the Sheffield athlete said on the day she confirmed that she would not be competing in this year's Commonwealth Games in Delhi because it clashes with her winter training programme.
"Not for one minute did I think I'd beat Lolo. That's mad." Though captain of the British team, Ennis was not even the official GB representative in the race. That was Sarah Claxton, an Olympic hurdles finalist. She finished fourth in 8.20sec, losing her British record and her scalp to Ennis, who was competing as a non-scoring guest.
It was Ennis's seventh personal best of the indoor season and the eighth was not long in coming. In the high jump she improved her indoor best from 1.92m to 1.94m before registering three failures at 1.96m, which would have been an absolute British record, indoors or out. In doing so, she matched the height of Chaunte Howard – a high jump specialist – the American taking victory on the countback system.
In the five-nation team contest, there were five official British winners: Craig Pickering (60m), Leon Baptiste (200m), Chris Tomlinson (long jump), Jenny Meadows (800m) and Helen Clitheroe (3,000m). All of which added up to a victory for Britain by two points from the US, with Ennis receiving the trophy. It was a mad day all round for the leading lady of British track and field.
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