With only 12 days to go until the World Athletics Championships, the medical facilities of UK Athletics hold the key to Great Britain’s aspirations in Moscow.
Jessica Ennis-Hill will meet with her coach Toni Minichiello this morning and be assessed by her medical team to see how her body has held up to the rigours of a busy week of competition. She is scheduled to compete over the hurdles once more at the weekend in Kingston, but a decision will made on that today.
Also today a decision is likely to be taken on her fellow star of Super Saturday, Greg Rutherford, and whether he has recovered sufficiently from his latest hamstring tear to take the last spot in the team.
The news from the Ennis-Hill camp has not been hugely hopeful. Lesser athletes would be happy to be Russia-bound but Ennis-Hill has made it abundantly clear she will not travel unless she is capable of going for gold.
After competing in the 100m hurdles on Saturday – when she was half-a-second off the time she set a year ago – and the long jump, she hardly set a confident note by saying: “I will chat with my coach and see if I have time to put things where they need to be for Moscow”.
For his part, Minichiello described his star athlete as “playing catch-up” and has earmarked another race for her, a potential gamble on such a suspect Achilles. Minichiello said the Olympic champion needs to be in the shape to open up with a 12.8-second run over the hurdles: “This is one of her strongest events and you need to put a stamp on it in the heptathlon”.
There has been a frailty to many of the big names in this post-Olympic year. As well as Ennis-Hill and Rutherford, Robbie Grabarz, while now free of his knee injury, has yet to recapture his best form, while 400m world champion Dai Greene sat out London with an inflamed Achilles.
Greene’s management company have downplayed it as no more than “a slight niggle” but, after a pre-season involving double hernia surgery, the athlete himself had insisted he “could not afford any more setbacks”.
Amid the seemingly packed waiting rooms at UKA’s medical facilities at present, and the patched-up nature of the star names, Mo Farah has given the greatest reason to be cheerful with, on the surface at least, barely a niggle in a supreme season so far.
The explosiveness of his finish both in Monaco in the 1500m and again in the 3,000m, and the fact that the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Ugandan contingents have been unable to break him with any great success this season, marks him out as favourite for both the 5,000m and 10,000m.
By his own admission, he is “a marked man with an X on the back” before adding: “That’s hard sometimes”. Remarkably, he still said there are things to improve, things to work on. Having been pipped to the line in the 10,000m at the last Worlds by Ibrahim Jeilan, he is taking nothing for granted.
“You saw what happened in Daegu,” he said. “I was the favourite, I’d never heard of Ibrahim Jeilan and I got beaten, so anything can happen. There’s always new guys and sometimes they are more hungry.”
Farah is Britain’s only real banker for gold in Moscow now, although others such as Perri Shakes-Drayton and Christine Ohuruogu are running into their best form at just the right time in the 400m hurdles and 400m respectively. Ohuruogu’s 50-seconds dead may only make her the seventh fastest over one lap this season but she has an astonishing ability to time it just right at the major championships, as she did in Osaka in 2007 to become world champion and Beijing the next year to add the Olympic crown.
Shakes-Drayton, who vies with Ohuruogu for most local athlete to the Olympic Stadium, did not win her race in London at the weekend but her second place and a personal best leave her in great shape for Moscow.
Having been injured after her final race before the Olympics, Shakes-Drayton’s big fear is of getting injured again, and giving UKA’s doctors and physios further cause for concern.