SHEFFIELD golden girl Jess Ennis is flying the flag again with a winning return to heptathlon action, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
The World and European champion fell short of setting a new British record, but could still be justifiably delighted with a commanding victory in Gotzis.
Ennis had the 11-year-old national record of former Olympic champion Denise Lewis in her sights after winning the 100 metres hurdles and high jump and setting a personal best over 200m on day one of the Hypo Meeting.
That gave her a total of 4,097 points - 17 more than at the same stage of the European Championships last year, where she went on to record a PB of 6,823 - and just eight behind the score Lewis achieved in Talence, France in 2000.
A solid jump of 6.37m in the long jump this morning kept the 25-year-old in the hunt with 5,062 points, just three less than at the same stage in Barcelona.
A best of 43.83m in the javelin left her needing an unlikely time of two minutes 05.70 seconds in the final event, the 800m, and although that proved out of reach, she produced another personal best with a gutsy finish.
Canada’s Jessica Zelinka had overtaken Ennis at the end of the first lap and looked like holding on for the win, but Ennis took advantage of a tiny gap down the inside in the final 10 metres to cross the line in two minutes 08.46secs - almost a second and a half better than her previous best.
A winning total of 6,790 was just 33 below her PB and considerably more than her target of around 6,500 - a brilliant achievement considering she had missed seven weeks of full training earlier this year with an ankle tendon injury which forced her to skip the European Indoor Championships in Paris.
A delighted Ennis said: “I think I’m actually in the best running shape of my life considering I missed so much. I think some of the technical things were off, but I’m so pleased and really surprised.
“It’s given me so much confidence. Now I know that if I have an injury I can get myself into shape in six weeks and that’s good for this year and next year.
“I know I’ve got weeks more training to do and I can get myself in even better shape.”
For more see The Star on Monday, May 30.