Following a shot and a couple of javelin contests Jessica Ennis makes her first outdoor track appearance of the year at the Powerade Great City Games in Manchester on Sunday.
Ennis lines up in arguably her strongest event, the 100 metres hurdles, against awesome American opposition.
Reigning Olympic champion Dawn Harper, together with World silver medallist Danielle Carruthers will give Ennis the toughest possible test just a week before she goes to Gotzis, Austria, to defend her heptathon title.
A feature of Ennis’s indoor season was the quality of her hurdling. She went under 8 seconds for the 60 metres distance on four occasions including a personal best of 7.87. If she carries that form to the 100 metres outdoors, she could threaten her best of 12.79 set last year.
That time ranks second on the UK all time list behind Tiffany Porter who overtook Ennis as the UK number one when she changed allegiance from the USA to Britain.
At this stage of her Olympic preparation, there is little doubt that Ennis will be in the sort of shape to challenge her best time although much will depend on the conditions. A cold, windswept Manchester would put paid to fast times but might suit Ennis more than the Americans.
Coach Tony Minichiello said, “It’s very rare that Jess gets the chance to compete against the world’s best individual performers in any event rather that just fellow heptathletes, so this is a great opportunity. It will be a daunting task taking on an Olympic gold medallist and other top hurdlers and I’m sure such a high profile head to head, in her first big race of the summer, will bring out the very best in her.”
The timing of this race is perfect, coming the week before the Gotzis meeting where most of the world’s leading heptathletes are expected to take part. For Ennis, Gotzis is a means to an end but she will not want to lose her title and will be looking to gain a psychological edge over her London rivals.
The first event in the heptathlon is the hurdles with usually gets Ennis off to a flying start and she will be particularly keen that things go according to plan in Manchester.
Despite her success in the hurdles Minichiello believes it would be foolish for Ennis to drop multi-eventing at this stage of her career: “I don’t think she should do one event now. She could specialise in the 100metres hurdles or the high jump, but even Jess herself says she doesn’t know how to train for one event. It’s like, ‘what will I do for the whole day? I’m used to preparing for seven events’.”
It is the third year of the Powerade Great City Games, an innovative and popular event in the centre of Manchester on a specially laid track with no charge for spectators. There is a range of sprints and hurdles as well as a pole vault including UK record holder Holly Bleasdale. Dwain Chambers does the 150 metres in his first European appearance since his Olympic ban was lifted.
The meeting starts at 2:55 and finishes at 5:00 pm.