The Roger Black Column: Jessica Ennis is just a regular girl – capable of extraordinary achievement
Historically the stronger girls tend to come out on top but Jess Ennis can blow them out of the way
Friday 03 August 2012
These are the big two days for Jess Ennis, and she will be feeling ready. She's been preparing for this for ages and the work's done. She's not going to be overawed by the occasion. She's not that type of person. If there's one thing she's managed to do well, it's to maintain her focus throughout this period.
Some people have talked about her doing too much publicity but I have a slight understanding of her world in that respect – I know some of the people who look after her – and the truth is that Jess doesn't spend a lot of time doing publicity. She just compartmentalises her life to fit it in and get it out of the way. I don't think it's affected her training at all.
I think in some ways she's been more worried about the planning for her wedding than the Olympic Games. She's just a very regular person, like Bradley Wiggins. You've got two very different characters but there are some similar traits there.
These are ordinary people who just do extraordinary things. And as long as Jess is able to do that and just focus on her performances over these next two days, I'm very confident that she'll come out with a gold medal.
I think if someone's going to beat Jess here they're going to have to have the competition of their lives. But it's a heptathlon. There are seven events and there are seven places where you can make a mistake.
That affects everybody. You can't afford to have a bad event in the Olympic Games. You can't make one big mistake. We saw that in the diving with Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield. One mistake and you're out of the medals.
It's the same in the heptathlon. It'll be the athlete who maintains their focus and has a very steady Games that will come through with the gold medal.
Jess has two tough competitors in Tatyana Chernova and Nataliya Dobrynska. You've got Jess, the slight speed merchant, against the stronger girls. Historically, the stronger girls tend to come out on top, but Jess is really quick. She can blow them out of the way in the first event, the 100m hurdles.
She has to be in the lead after the first day. And there are many key events for her. Her long jump has been up and down this year. Her high jump has been OK.
She's going to have to put in seven good events if she's going to win the gold medal, but she's more than capable of doing that.
She missed the Games four years ago because of a bad foot injury. I missed the Games in 1988 because of injury, went in 1992 and wasn't fully fit and went in 1996 when I was ready. Jess is going into these Games ready and that's a great position to be in. You just want to go out there and express yourself to the best of your ability.
The kind of disappointment Jess suffered in 2008 strengthens your character. She's had to make big changes. She's had to learn to take off from the other foot in the long jump. She's also had to really focus in on her javelin, which she's done with the former British javelin thrower Mick Hill.
So if Jess comes out with a gold medal she thoroughly deserves it. She's not someone who's rested on her talent and hasn't had any challenges.
The pressure of a home Games will be a factor to all British athletes. I don't know how big a factor, but you're in an Olympic Stadium and you've got 95 per cent of the audience cheering you on. That should inspire you.
For some people it will be too much but I think for the majority it will be an advantage not a disadvantage. I don't think it's going to give 10 per cent but I think it's going to give a fair bit.
Idowu's not ready but don't write him off
Obviously, Phillips Idowu has got problems. Obviously, he's not ready. And, for the biggest competition of his life, he wants to do it his own way. Let's judge the man on his performances.
We're not idiots here. He's clearly not in a great place but he's probably realised that the only one who can get him out of this place is himself. He wants to do it his way. And you have to let him do it.
It's not like Paula Radcliffe's situation. In the marathon, if you're not ready you can't do it. But Steve Backley won a silver medal in 1996 in the javelin and he had torn his Achilles 14 weeks prior. He had one big throw in him.
Phillips has probably got two jumps in him. One would be an 80 per cent jump in qualifying next Tuesday to make the final. And then one big jump in the final. That can win the Olympics. So don't write him off quite yet.
He's not taking anyone's place. I hope he has a jump in him. I'm pretty sure he won't have many. But with someone of that stature, just leave him alone to get on with it.
Roger Black is writing for 'The Independent', 'Independent on Sunday' and 'Evening Standard' during the Games. He is an ambassador for Scottish Widows, the official pensions and investments provider for the London 2012 Olympics.
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