Jessica Ennis-Hill made an impressive return to heptathlon action on Saturday to lie third overall after four events at the Hypo-Meeting in Austria.
Ennis-Hill has not competed in the seven-discipline event since winning gold at the 2012 Olympics in London after injury and motherhood kept her away from action, but a couple of solid performances on Saturday morning set the tone for a successful day.
The 29-year-old Sheffield athlete finished fifth in the opening 100 metres hurdles in a time of 13.24 seconds - seven tenths of a second slower than her personal best - but produced a better-than-expected 1.86m effort in the high jump to lie second overall after two events.
Ennis-Hill dropped a place after recording a throw of 13.37m in the shot put - considered to be one of her weaker events - and clocking 23.86s in the 200m.
Her points haul of 3,928 means she is 103 points behind leader Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada with three rounds to go, but she remains on course for the 6,200 total needed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Ennis-Hill will contest the long jump, javelin and 800m on Sunday and admitted that her performances in the hurdles and long jump came as something of a surprise.
“I think it’s ironic because I felt like my hurdles would improve a bit and I felt more confident about that and was really worried about the high jump because I have just have not high-jumped,” she said.
“I was disappointed with my hurdles - (I’m) just lacking speed because I haven’t done the work.
“But I was really, really pleased with the high jump because I’ve probably done just four high jump sessions but I felt like I had that ping again and it felt really nice.”
Ennis-Hill triumphed emphatically in her last appearance in Gotzis three years ago and, while she was pleased with her day’s efforts after such a lengthy lay-off, she is not enjoying playing second fiddle to her rivals.
“It’s hard because I’m really competitive and I’m always measuring myself against previous performances so it’s hard to not be right in the mix and be a little bit further back.
“I think if I look at it as a whole and (compared to) a few weeks ago, a few months ago (I see) that I’ve actually come here and competed day one and I’m third overall I can’t be too disappointed and I’m quite happy.”
Ennis-Hill needs just 2,272 more points on Sunday to qualify for next year’s Olympics - and she just wants to get the job done.
“I just want to get qualified,” she added. “It’s going to be a really good indication of what I need to go away and do.
“Obviously from day one I need to go away and work on my speed and just get a good block of training done, which I’ve not been able to do.”