It doesn’t get better than this, says Jess

On her marks: Jessica Ennis can't wait for her two title challenges.          Picture: Steve Parkin
On her marks: Jessica Ennis can't wait for her two title challenges. Picture: Steve Parkin
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JESSICA Ennis won’t have completed a heptathlon for exactly four months come the World Championships – but she’s adamant, having meticulously planned every week in between, less will equal more in Daegu.

The 25-year-old Sheffielder competed in her one and only heptathlon of the year in Gotzis on May 28 and 29, recording 6790 points to win, with her next to be in South Korea on August 29 and 30. Her tally was comfortably inside the World Championship qualifying standard of 6150 – not that she needed to hit it as, courtesy of being the reigning champion, she earns automatically selection.

That proved Ennis was over the ankle niggle that ruled her out of the European Indoor Championships in February – and she has been thorough in a bid to defend her world title since.

“The last time I did a full heptathlon was in Gotzis but that went really well and I beat a strong field so that gives me a lot of confidence,” said Ennis.

“And the trials at Birmingham was pretty much perfect preparation for me – I got to put together a load of events and try to simulate some of the time periods between them. That is the tough thing with heptathlons – there are only two or three events during the year that you can compete in and you have to pick and choose the rest as individual events to practice.

“And that makes it tough to get your training right. You have to be peaking at the right time so that when they do actually come around you are at your best.

“My preparation has gone well this year and hopefully I can show that in Daegu. The World Championships are huge and my focus has been entirely on them.”

This time two years ago Ennis was about to put the ankle injury that ruled her out of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to the test – one she was to pass with flying colours in Berlin. Ennis won three of the seven events to take world gold with a point’s tally of 6731 – a then personal best impressively bettered to 6823 on the way to the European title in Barcelona a year later.

She will travel to Daegu as the favourite for gold and with her score in Gotzis the best in the world this year – but she is throwing caution to the wind at the last major championships before the 2012 Olympics.

Olympic champion from Beijing Nataliya Dobrynska, who finished fourth in Berlin and second at the Europeans, will once again be in attendance – and Ennis is taking nothing for granted. “When I look back on the last two years, it has been an amazing time and I’m grateful for everything” she added.

“I won that gold in Berlin and now I am heading into another World Championships followed by a home Olympics – it doesn’t get much better than that.

“It is going to be tougher in Daegu than it was in Berlin. Nataliya is going to be there as well as every other rival of mine so I will need to be at my best. Everyone is always improving and I need to make sure I am as well. I have had my fair share of injury problems but now I feel good.”

Just like two years ago Ennis should be joined in the heptathlon by fellow Brit Louise Hazel, who after finishing 14th on debut, basked in the success of the girl just over three months younger than her.

But having claimed Commonwealth gold amid a battle of security, safety and health issues in Delhi, Ennis, who opted out of the trip, is all too aware of Hazel’s talents.

“Louise and I have been competing against each other for so many years, right the way through from the junior ranks and I know her well,” added Ennis. Her performance at the Commonwealths was impressive; she’s improving all the time and that sort of rivalry can only be a good thing for us as individuals and British athletics as a whole.”

Aviva Startrack is one of 7 schemes within the Aviva Athletics Academy which aims to give every child in the UK the chance to get involved in athletics by 2012. Try Aviva Startrack for free this summer; get more info at www.uka.org.uk/academy

See Grassroots on Thursday for a Jessica Ennis special feature.