SHEFFIELD’S golden girl Jessica Ennis today proved she’s not just the best of British but in world beating form ahead of her bid for Olympic glory, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
She answered her critics in resounding fashion by smashing the British heptathlon record of former superstar Denise Lewis in Gotzis.
Now the nation will be willing on the 26-year-old to copying Lewis by following a national record with Olympic gold.
“I don’t want to think about that yet, I just need to enjoy this moment and stay focused,” a delighted Ennis said. “I know I am in great shape and that I can build on it now.
“I’m so happy, I’m over the moon. The record is something that’s been at the back of my mind and I wanted to achieve but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on it. Now I have the record I am very very pleased.”
Ennis arrived in Austria to find herself bizarrely labelled “fat” by a senior figure at UK Athletics and having lost both her world titles in the space of seven months.
But the Sheffield athlete hit back in brilliant style to record a third straight win at the Hypo Meeting with a new personal best of 6,906 points.
That was 75 more than the previous record of 6,831 set by Lewis in 2000, shortly before she won Olympic gold in Sydney, and makes Ennis only the eighth woman ever to score more than 6,900.
Russia’s Tatyana Chernova, who took Ennis’ world title in Daegu last year, was 132 points behind in second, with Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska a distant ninth almost 600 points adrift.
“They won’t want to go into London with a bad score, they will come back stronger, but so will I and I will have a big crowd with me,” Ennis added.
“There is definitely more to come, not hundreds and hundreds of points, little improvements, but I am 26 now and I have always said this is a good age.”
Ennis had been keen to play down the possibility of the record on Saturday evening, despite a personal best of 22.88 seconds in the 200m giving her a first-day total of 4,113 points, 33 ahead of her score at the European Championships in Barcelona in 2010 when she set her previous PB of 6,823.
That was perhaps understandable given that poor performances in the javelin and long jump cost her the world outdoor title in Daegu last year and world indoor crown in Istanbul in March respectively, but this time there was emphatically no second-day stumble.
In fact Ennis equalled her personal best of 6.51m in the long jump and then threw a personal best of 47.11m in the javelin, improving her previous mark by 40cm in the opening round and also producing consistent subsequent throws of 44.32m and 44.66m.
That left her needing to complete the 800m in a relatively pedestrian two minutes 14 seconds to break Lewis’s record, but she made absolutely certain by clocking 2:09.00, leading from the gun before just being beaten to the line by Chernova.
“I really wanted 6,900 points,” Ennis added. “Typically I thought I would just miss out on it but to have actually got it is brilliant.
“I wanted to do it for me, to prove to myself that I can do it, that I am capable of scoring a big score and that I am in good shape. That gives me the self-belief and the mental capacity going ahead, so that was really good for me.
“I did worry a bit (after Daegu and Istanbul), but I had to believe that I have all the components to make it work and make a big score. I have worked so hard over the past few weeks since the indoor season so to actually come here and see all that come together was brilliant.”
Ennis’s coach Toni Minichiello also believes there is more to come, but said: “It’s been an excellent two days. I’m really pleased.
“It shows she is in good shape and follows on from the shape she had indoors. It’s nice to do a British record indoors in Istanbul and then come outdoors and do another. We’ve kind of got the set, even though she lost the junior one recently, but you can’t have everything!”
One area Ennis will be looking to improve is the high jump, an event in which she is the joint British record holder at 1.95m.
She only managed 1.85m here to follow a run of 12.81s in the 100m hurdles, but a solid 14.51m in the shot was followed by a brilliant run in the 200m which gave her a commanding lead of 221 points after the opening day.