Heptathlon remains Jess’s main priority

Rising to challenge: Jessica Ennis clears the bar in the high jump on her way to heptathlon victory in Austria.                 Picture: John Giles/PA Wire
Rising to challenge: Jessica Ennis clears the bar in the high jump on her way to heptathlon victory in Austria. Picture: John Giles/PA Wire
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World and European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis has been given until October to decide if she wants to run the 4x100 metres relay at next year’s Olympic Games.

Ennis has already turned down the chance to be part of the relay squad at this summer’s World Championships in Daegu, preferring to focus on the defence of her heptathlon title after an injury-plagued winter.

And the 25-year-old also looks set to pass up the chance to compete in the sprint relay in London as she aims to give 100% to her bid to add the Olympic title to her burgeoning medal collection. “There has been talk about the relay but to be honest my focus is on the heptathlon,” Ennis said in Gotzis last weekend, where she returned to heptathlon action with a commanding victory.

“After having an injury I need to focus on what is important and the heptathlon is more important than anything else. I don’t want to commit myself to a team if I’m not going to be at the sessions when all the other girls are there - I don’t think that’s fair on the team. I just want to focus on the events I need to do this year. Next year? I think it will be a discussion but I’m pretty sure what I want to do.”

The competition schedule in London has already prevented Ennis from competing in the 100m hurdles - one of her strongest disciplines - as well as the heptathlon, but the Sheffield athlete has always wanted to make the most of her home Olympics.

Her coach Toni Minichiello appeared to offer some hope that Ennis would take up the offer of a relay spot, suggesting that relay training can sometimes be “over-complicated”, especially if Ennis were to run the first leg as expected and therefore only need to practice one type of baton change.

However, he also admitted that he fully understood the October deadline imposed by UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee was necessary to “to give everyone plenty of time” to work on possible scenarios.

It comes as no surprise that Van Commenee would like a proven winner such as Ennis on the team, especially after he gave the squad a public dressing down for “schoolgirl mistakes” after they crashed out of the European Championships in Barcelona. Coincidentally, Ennis was speaking to reporters in the lobby of the British team hotel when Van Commenee made his displeasure known, although she remained blissfully unaware at the time. “I didn’t even notice that, I was just chatting away,” Ennis joked. “I can’t believe I missed it!”

London’s relay heats start five days after the heptathlon finishes, but for now it looks as though Ennis will concentrate on the heptathlon as she looks to follow Sydney champion Denise Lewis into the record books.

Rotherham’s Rhian Hastey was in fine form for Yorkshire on the first day of the Inter Counties Track and Field Championships at Bedford. He ran a mature 800 metres to get the verdict in 1:54.68. In the field events, Greg Beard (Belgrave) won the shot with Sheffield’s Jamie Williamson third whilst former Barnsley athlete Laura Whittingham (Sale) was runner up in the javelin. Rotherham’s Steph Burns was fifth in the women’s steeplechase.