Heptathlon queen Ennis set to exorcise the ghosts of Gotzis

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The Independent Online

It might shatter the Alpine tranquillity here is this western corner of Austria, but it would be rather appropriate if Jessica Ennis were to emerge into the arena of the Mosle Stadion tomorrow with the strains of Ray Parker Jnr blasting over the public address system – accompanied by Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd, all toting their old anti-ectoplasm guns. There was something very wrong when Ennis was last in this particular neighbourhood. She is back in Gotzis on a ghostbusting mission.

Before the pride of Sheffield gets to her mark tomorrow morning for the 110 metres hurdles, the opening event of the heptathlon in the Hypo-Meeting, the annual gathering of the planet's leading multi-event athletes, her mind will surely scroll back to the dark day in 2008 when her world came crashing down In Gotzis. She arrived two years ago intending to lay the groundwork for an Olympic medal challenge in Beijing later that summer. She departed in agony – and tears – halfway through the competition, having negotiated the four events on the opening day, Saturday, with an intensifying pain in her right foot.

On the Sunday morning Ennis flew back to London for a series of scans at the British Olympic Medical Institute at Northwick Park in Harrow. They showed her to be suffering from a triple stress fracture. In the immediate aftermath, it was not just her foot and her Beijing dream that were feared broken. As Ennis recalled: "When the doctor showed me the scans of my foot he said it could be career-threatening. He said there was a chance it might not fully heal, because of where the fractures were."

Thankfully, the doomsday scenario failed to materialise. Ennis had to sit in front of her television set in South Yorkshire watching Nataliya Dobrynska, Hyleas Fountain and Tatyana Chernova take Olympic gold, silver and bronze in the heptathlon, the seven-event test of all-round athletic ability. It is not the Belarusian, the American or the Russian who lines up this weekend in Gotzis as world No 1, though. It is the young woman with the mettle forged in the Steel City.

Last August in Berlin Ennis won the World Championship heptathlon in imperious fashion, leading from the start and finishing a whopping 238 points clear of the opposition. Dobrynska, the Olympic champion, finished outside the medals in fourth. Chernova finished eighth. Fountain was absent, having been struck down by injury in the US trials. In the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Doha in March the Briton beat all three Beijing medallists. She did so in style, eclipsing the championship record held by Carolina Kluft, the three-times outdoor world champion and five-times Gotzis winner.

At 24, Ennis has established herself as the successor to Kluft as the undisputed queen of the multi-events world. As she prepares to put her crown on the line this weekend, though, is the ghost of Gotzis past not a haunting presence? "To be honest, I don't know what my emotions are going to be like," she pondered. "Will I be on the start-line having flash-backs? No, I don't think so.

"My memories of Gotzis are not good at all, but that is why I think coming back is a good thing. I'd like to erase the memories of two years ago and make some good memories. It's a brilliant event. It would be nice to put down a good performance."

In Berlin last summer Ennis put down seven good performances and finished with 6,731 points. If she can glean a further 101 points on her return to the Mosle Stadion this weekend she will remove Denise Lewis's name from the British record book – and bust the Gotzis ghost in the process.

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