Rio 2016: Not perfect but Jessica Ennis-Hill leads Olympic heptathlon after day one

Jessica Ennis-Hill
Jessica Ennis-Hill
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Leading from the front at another Olympic Games, Jessica Ennis-Hill is proving yet again that she is a true championship performer.

But the defending champion admits conditions in Rio have asked new questions of her as she bids for a second successive Olympic gold.

The 30-year-old topped the standings after the first day of action in the heptathlon at the Olympic Stadium – her total of 4057 points giving her a lead of 72 from Belgium’s Nafi Thiam.

A fantastic showing in tricky morning conditions – gloomy skies and rain had greeted the athletes on the track – in both the 100m hurdles and high jump had Ennis-Hill beaming.

Her time of 12.84 seconds into a headwind was the fastest of anyone in the field, while her clearance at 1.89m - beating her best at London 2012 - left her visibly delighted.

However, after a bitterly disappointing distance of 13.86m in the shot put and, by her own high standards, a slow 200m time of 23.49 the Sheffield athlete admitted it had been a far from perfect start despite being in the lead.

“I am really pleased with my hurdles, my high jump as well, but the shot put, I’m devastated,” she said.

“I’ve been throwing like 14.50m in training in the holding camp and then to do that was really annoying.

“The 200m was just a bit of a slow time, really. I think generally everyone didn’t run a great time so it was a mixed day but obviously I am glad to be leading after the first day.

“I think it is always nice to be leading overnight but those girls have got great jumps in the long jump and they can all run good 800m’s so it will be a challenging day.”

She will be back in action at 3.45pm on Saturday in the long jump. The javelin begins at midnight with the heptathlon concluding with the 800m at 2.50am on Sunday.

After competing in front of a particularly sparse crowd in the morning of day one, competitors had to wait almost eight hours before they were in action again late at night.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Ennis-Hill’s GB teammate and rival for the gold, was one of a few athletes that in fact stayed in the stadium as they were faced with the unusual scenario.

Saturday will be much of the same for the pair with Ennis-Hill likely to rely on the advice of her coach Toni Minichiello as to how best to handle it.

But with three more events to go she believes it will still take a big effort to retain her title.

“It’s been a completely different day,” Ennis-Hill explained.

“We were up at 5am, which we normally are that early but then having that massive break and running at this time of night, you don’t realise how much your body is affected by it and that shows in the times really.

“He [Toni Minichiello] was not pleased after the shot put, he looked a little bit stressed! But I think he’ll be happy with me leading and I will go and have a chat with him and see what he thinks.

“I just want to put all the pieces together, go and rest up and come back stronger.

“It is just a challenge. Even when you think that events are going well in training, you come here and they don’t go so well it’s just the nature of the event so it is always adrenalin and anxiousness and up and down all the time so it’s been a tough day.”

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