Ennis takes aim at rivals for crown of absent Kluft
Saturday 31 May 2008
Jessica Ennis sat on the lush infield of the Mösle stadium here yesterday in oppressive heat that was about to be dissipated by storm clouds rolling in over the mountains which surround this small but famous Austrian border town. In the relative calm before the coming storm of Beijing, this small but famous native of Sheffield was contemplating a weekend of activity that will offer a clear view of her Olympic ambitions.
Götzis has earned its reputation in athletics for an annual multi-events meeting which has attracted talents such as Daley Thompson, Jürgen Hingsen, Denise Lewis and world record holder Roman Sebrle. Today the eager locals who throng to this informal venue will witness an effective Olympic heptathlon trial event as all the main Beijing contenders – save for Britain's 2004 bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton – put themselves on the line.
Ennis has not competed at Götzis before, but at 22 she has already made her name with achievements elsewhere, having earned bronze behind Sotherton's gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and placed fourth at last year's World Championships.
The Götzis organisers like to concoct scores for each athlete combining their various personal bests as if they had been achieved in one competition. The Ennis total of 6711 points already needed revision, however, following her recent personal bests in the shot – 13.19m – and the javelin, where she has improved her mark three times this season to 43.08m under the direction of former world bronze medallist Mick Hill.
The fantasy figure thus stands at 6868, a goodly advance on the actual personal best of 6469 points Ennis set in finishing fourth, one place behind Sotherton, in Osaka last summer.
She greeted the make-believe mark with amusement. "I'd settle for 6700!" she said. "That would be brilliant – in a perfect world."
Even in an imperfect one such a score would earn a medal in Beijing, but Ennis is trying hard to think about performance, rather than rewards, in an event that has opened up considerably following Carolina Kluft's decision not to defend her Olympic title. With Belgium's world indoor champion Tia Hellebaut concentrating on high jump this summer, the heptathlon teems with possibilities.
Ennis's coach, Tony Minichiello, estimates there are eight women for whom Olympic medals are within reach. "It's going to be a good little bunfight in Beijing," he said.
"It will definitely be weird without Carolina," Ennis said. "But it's going to be good because it makes the odds better for everyone else, me included. Carolina and I are complete opposites. Of course I get myself up to perform, but I'm not whacking my legs and hitting my face like she does. She's an animal!"
While Sotherton gets her training back on track back home, having missed two weeks at the start of this month because of a kidney infection while at her training base in Formia, Italy, she is still making an impact in Austria by dint of the nickname she endowed upon a reluctant Ennis two years ago – 'Tadpole'.
"I think Kelly did that because that's part of her make-up," Minichiello said. "You could call it gamesmanship. She was having a little bit of a dig, and I think it's a bit sad you have to do that kind of thing."
Ennis is baffled rather than anything else. "I asked her where she got the name from and she didn't really have an explanation," she said. "But Kelly and I get on fine." It's a friendly rivalry between the two Britons – but as the Olympics loom, it seems the rivalry is intensifying.
Chambers set to make track return in Germany
Dwain Chambers is expected to contest his first 100 metres for almost two years in Biberach, Germany, at the end of next month.
The event is not a partner of Euromeetings, whose 51 members recommended in March that athletes who have served a two-year doping ban since 2003, as Chambers has, should not be invited to compete.
"Everybody can make a mistake once in their life," said the event director, Heinz Husselman, who is awaiting confirmation from the 30-year-old. "Give him a second chance."
There are signs that Euromeetings members may be inclining to the same view. Gerhard Janetzky, the managing director of this weekend's Berlin Golden League event, said Chambers – who plans to contest his Olympic ban by taking the British Olympic Association to the High Court – could run in Berlin next summer.
Janetzky said that his meeting had a "cooling-off period" of one year for athletes returning from doping bans.
"If [Chambers] is eligible because of performance, we would consider inviting him," he said. "I'm sure the position I have here is a position of other meetings, and I know [the] Zurich Golden League meeting share the same opinion."
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