Athletics: Ennis on track for Beijing but fears threat of the Swedes
Sunday 27 January 2008
When Jessica Ennis settled into her starting blocks for the opening track event in the Norwich Union International Match here in Glasgow yesterday she had one eye on the finish line and the other on Beijing seven months down the road.
The sight of a rival in the yellow vest of Sweden pulling clear to victory is likely to be a familiar one when the young woman from Sheffield gets to the China's capital to contest the Olympic heptathlon.
It was Susanna Kallur, the reigning European high hurdles champion indoors and out, who left the Great Britain medal hope chasing a personal target in the 60m hurdles. Carolina Kluft was a notable absentee from the Swedish team, although the queen of the multi-events world seems certain to be alongside Ennis in Beijing for a possible final fling as a heptathlete.
In the United States for the Boston Indoor Games this weekend, Kluft continued to equivocate about her Olympic plans – not ruling out the suggestion she mooted on Swedish television before Christmas that she might skip the defence of her heptathlon crown in Beijing and pour her efforts into the long jump. "I don't have the motivation to compete in the heptathlon like before," she said.
Still, the fact that Kluft has the motivation to contest the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships in March is a strong indication that she will be going for heptathlon gold in Beijing. Certainly, the Swedish contingent in Glasgow fully expect her to do so – and so does Ennis.
"I don't want to get it into my head that she might not do the heptathlon," the 21-year-old Briton said, after a highly encouraging afternoon's work – equalling her indoor personal best (8.18sec) for fifth place behind Kallur in the 60m hurdles and then setting a hat-trick of indoor lifetime bests (6.28m, 6.30m and 6.33m) for second place in the long jump.
A graduate in psychology from the University of Sheffield, Ennis has a wise head on her young shoulders. The chances are that she will be battling for silver or bronze in Beijing, as she was in Osaka last August. She missed out a medal there by a tantalising 37 points – finishing fourth behind Kluft, Lyudmila Blonska of Ukraine, and her Great Britain team-mate Kelly Sotherton – but her form yesterday bodes well for her prospects in Beijing.
Her long jumping was particularly impressive. Starting the competition with an indoor best of 6.21, she came on in leaps and bounds, improving by 12cm and finishing within 4cm of one of the world's best – Germany's Bianca Kappler, who finished fifth in the long jump in Osaka.
The next step for Ennis on the road to Beijing will be the Norwich Union World Trials and UK Championships on home soil in Sheffield in two weeks' time.
Any chance of Dwain Chambers taking the same step ended a fortnight ago when UK Athletics revealed that the reinstated doping offender was not on their drug testing list. For good measure, Niels de Vos, the chief executive of the domestic governing body, reiterated yesterday that the former British and European 100m record holder would not be eligible to compete in Sheffield.
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