Race legend backs Sheffield’s Jess Ennis to beat the world’s best

Spreading the light: Four times Olympian Michael Johnson.
Spreading the light: Four times Olympian Michael Johnson.
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FOUR-TIME Olympic champion Michael Johnson insists that if Jess Ennis fails to deliver gold in London it will be because of the strength of her competitors - not the pressure of expectation.

With the Games now in sight the Sheffield heptathlete is plastered all over billboards, TV and the internet as the Olympic buzz reaches a crescendo. For some that might bring unwanted strain but Ennis looks to be approaching her best form at the right time. A new personal best of 6,906 pts in Gotzis in May showed tthat Ennis was in form after a disappointing previous year that saw her lose her world indoor and outdoor titles. While in Daegu it was Tatyana Chernova who stole Ennis’ thunder, at the indoors in March it was Natalya Dobrynska who smashed the world record to take gold.

Johnson, while admiring Ennis’ strength of character, warns that she will have to perform better than ever if she is to top the London podium. “The general British public might think Jess is something of a shoo-in for gold but there are no shoo-ins at the Olympics, especially given the way her rivals are competing,” said Johnson, speaking following the launch of his new mobile phone apps, Michael Johnson’s Motiv8 and Michael Johnson’s Fun Run.

“Jess may have to have a personal best in order to win. If you look at the last couple of years, Jess hasn’t performed poorly, but because the other girls have performed so great she lost indoors and the world championship outdoors. Support from the home crowd could be the extra boost you need, that extra pressure. Some people can’t handle the pressure of expectation. I’ve seen people literally not show up at the starting line.

“But I don’t think that will be a problem with Jess, she’s used to the hype. Some people like Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics had a huge amount of pressure which she believes helped her win and maybe Jess can do the same.”

Johnson’s crowning glory came in Atlanta in 1996 when in front of a home crowd he stormed to gold in both the 400m and 200m, a double that has never been matched at the Games.

And the 44-year-old has called on Ennis to make the most of the home support as he did 16 years ago. “The biggest advantage of being at home is in the lead up to the Games,” he said. “The British athletes are reminded every day what they’re training for. I had that in 1996 at Atlanta. For me it was great having that American crowd.”

Get your fitness back on track and teach your kids the importance of healthy eating with Michael Johnson’s Motiv8 itunes.apple.com/gb/app/michael-johnson-motiv8/id501945154?mt=8 and Michael Johnson’s Fun Run itunes.apple.com/gb/app/michael-johnsons-fun-run/id536103489?mt=8. Available to download now from the iTunes App Store