Sheffield’s golden girl can star in Russia

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis in full flight. By John Giles/PA Wire.
Great Britain's Jessica Ennis in full flight. By John Giles/PA Wire.
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UK Athletics performance director Neil Black admits he can not be totally sure that Sheffield’s Jessica Ennis-Hill will be fit for next month’s World Championships.

The Olympic heptathlon champion has not graced a track since London 2012. She is battling an ankle problem which has so far forced her to delay her comeback four times, most recently pulling out of last weekend’s Sainsbury’s British Championships.

It is by no means certain she will return to action before the World Championships get under way in Moscow on August 10.

Asked how sure he was Ennis-Hill would be in Russia, Black said: “It’s impossible to be 100 per cent confident, but the progress is good - regular communication, updates on a daily basis.

“It’s been particularly promising over the last week or so, but we are constantly monitoring and will make, or Jess will make, a decision, along with (coach) Toni (Minichiello), as soon as they can.

“Until she actually turns up on the track and performs we can’t be absolutely sure, but we’re certainly thinking very positively.”

Ennis-Hill’s next scheduled competition is the 100 metres hurdles at Friday’s Diamond League meeting in Monaco, but her participation is far from certain.

“Jess loves competing, she’ll be out there as soon as she possibly can,” Black added.

Going into a global championships having not competed all year would leave the Sheffield athlete with a tough battle to regain the world title, but Black said she should not be ruled out of contention.

“I think she’s one of the few people who probably can do that (win without competing beforehand),” Black said.

Ennis-Hill’s fellow London 2012 champion Mo Farah joins her in the team, looking to repeat last year’s success over 5,000 and 10,000m, but Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford is not included - for now.

He has been given longer to prove his fitness after a hamstring complaint, with the entrant in that event yet to be confirmed. The selection, which is between Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson, will now be announced on July 30, with Black opting to use his performance director’s discretion.

Black said: “He’s recovered from some injuries in the past in a way that I’ve rarely seen, so we’ve decided to give him an opportunity to see if that can happen again.”

Harry Aikines-Aryeetey was chosen ahead of Adam Gemili for the third and final 100m spot on the team, with Gemili instead going over 200m.

Meanwhile, with the sport still reeling from the news of positive tests by Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, two of its biggest names, Black insists the organisation is doing everything in its power to ensure the British team is 100 per cent clean of drugs.

The biggest drug scandal to affect the sport in years hit on Sunday, with sprinters Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, two of its biggest names, both returning positive tests.

But Black claims the public can be confident the British team is drug free.

He added: “I don’t believe we could do any more and I certainly feel incredibly confident that we are doing a really good job.”

Ennis-Hill, with her left ankle heavily strapped, came through the long jump unscathed, winning the competition with a best leap of 6.26m.

Interesting, though, she took off on her right leg, a change to last year. She had switched to her left leg following the broken foot she suffered in 2008 which ruled her out of the Beijing Olympics.

It is understood the change has nothing to do with her ankle problem. She switched back to her right leg following London 2012 as she and coach Toni Minichiello looked at areas where she could still improve.