Jess sets off on the long road to London

Jessica Ennis competing in the shot put at the EIS
Jessica Ennis competing in the shot put at the EIS
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It was about as far away from what will be an intense atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium this summer, but tucked away in a quiet corner of the English Institute of Sport on Saturday Jessica Ennis got her season underway.

In seven months time the Millhouses-based heptathlete, and former King Ecgbert and University of Sheffield student will line up in London with sporting greatness beckoning.

But the longest journey starts with the shortest step and that’s what happened at the weekend as, cordoned off by a couple of metal barriers from a handful of spectators, Ennis won the Northern Indoor Championship for shot put.

It was far from a vintage performance. Afterwards she talked about having hoped to break 14 metres – the closest she got was 13.95m with her sixth and final effort.

The quiet frustration of not achieving that goal was evident but, as her long-time coach Toni Minichiello pointed out, Ennis is in the middle of heavy winter training and hadn’t specifically prepared for this event. Five centimetres more on her distance may have sent her home happier, but it wouldn’t really have made much of a difference to the aim of taking part and shaking off any lingering competition cobwebs.

Ennis said: “It’s always good to get the first event of the year out of the way.

“It would have been nice to have gone over 14 metres but it’s hard to get up for it when you’re not really preparing for it.”

Minichiello seemed pleased enough with Ennis’s performance and joked that he may check the Olympic schedule to see if she could take part in the shot put as well as the heptathlon.

It was a throw-away line but shows how relaxed the Ennis camp is at the moment.

Training is going well and there is a quiet air of confidence that she will be in the shape of her life for London.

Ennis may have been pushed in a corner on Saturday but it may be the last time she is out of the limelight in 2012.