Sheffield first stop for Ennis on route to Chernova showdown


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The Independent Online

Denise Lewis was on Desert Island Discs yesterday morning, talking about her golden moment on top of the podium in Sydney in 2000 and the empty feeling of what to do with the rest of her life after Olympic heptathlon success.

An hour later Jessica Ennis was sitting in a room at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield daring not to dream about the dizzying height of the London Olympic medal rostrum.

"Sometimes you can just drift off a little bit and start thinking how amazing it would be if I did achieve my ultimate dream," the European heptathlon champion said. "But I don't allow myself to think about it too often. You can end up being fixated about what will happen if you achieve your goal and forget about what you need to do to get there."

For Ennis, the road to London has already taken in two minor competitions at the EIS, the daily office where she puts in the hard yards with her coach of 15 years, Toni Minichiello. After a shot put victory in the Northern Indoor Championships four weeks ago and a 60m hurdles win and long jump second-placing in the McCain City Challenge last weekend, it's a step up in level over the next two days, with the high jump, shot, 60m hurdles and possibly also the long jump on the Sheffielder's schedule at the Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships.

The national championship meeting doubles as a trial for the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul next month but Ennis is already qualified and confirmed for the pentathlon there on 9 March – as is Tatyana Chernova.

The 6ft 2in Russian relieved the British golden girl of her world heptathlon title in Daegu last August, and a vision of the decisive moment in South Korea is at the back of Ennis' mind as she prepares for a spring re-match that could threaten Irina Belova's 20-year-old world indoor pentathlon record. In the bigger picture is an Olympic heptathlon duel that promises to be one of the highlights of the 2012 Games.

"I use it to motivate and fuel me: the image of crossing the line in the 800m and she has her arms in the air, celebrating, and I'm just kind of going, 'Ah, damn'," Ennis said. "If I'm having a bad training session I'll think of that moment and it'll help push me on. But at the same time I don't want to become obsessed with it.

"Everyone's going to create this big rivalry between me and Chernova. There is a big rivalry but there's not just me and Chernova; there are four or five of us who could quite easily get that gold medal in London."

Lewis, of course, was in a similar position going into Sydney Olympic year. She had been beaten by an emerging rival at the previous year's World Championships in Seville but when it came to the crunch in Stadium Australia the Briton took the gold and Eunice Barber of France failed to even podium.

Chernova has already long-jumped 6.54m this year, 35cm farther than Ennis in Sheffield last week, and has clocked 8.26sec for the 60m hurdles, 0.2sec slower than Ennis' time a week ago. Minichiello, however, stressed: "We're not getting wrapped up in what Chernova is doing. It's about making Jess be better at being Jess."