Jessica Ennis in Desenzano del Garda (Lorenzo Sampaolo) © Copyright
General News Desenzano del Garda, Italy

After solid comeback in Desenzano, Berlin podium is next stop for Ennis

British heptathlete Jessica Ennis showed that she is ready to fight for a medal at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin following her outstanding win in the first IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting of the season in Desenzano del Garda.

In the Northern Italian town on the shores of the Lake Garda Ennis scored an impressive lifetime best score and early season world best of 6587 points in her comeback to Heptathlon competition from a serious stress fracture in her right foot.

The Sheffield Heptathlon star smashed her previous PB of 6469 points scored when she finished fourth at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka. Ennis won four events: 12.98 in the 100m Hurdles, 1.90m in the High Jump, 23.49 in the 200m into a slight headwind and the 800m in a new PB of 2:09.88. Her 12.98 in the urdles was particularly remarkable, as she missed her PB set in Osaka by just 0.01 seconds.

In the High Jump Ennis cleared 1.90m on the same runway where she set her British High Jump record of 1.95m - jumping 30cm above her head - two years ago in the process of her first Desenzano win with 6388 points. This year the young Briton narrowly missed 1.93m on the third attempt.

She showed progresss in the Shot Put and the Javelin Throw, her weakest events. In the Shot Put she reached 13.19m, missing her fresh PB of 13.59m set the previous week in Derby. In the javelin she speared the implement to 42.70m setting her PB in a heptathlon competition, although she has reached 43m in an individual event.

In the Long Jump she leapt to 6.16m but it must be said that she has switched her take-off leg from her right foot to her left following her last year’s stress fracture injury.

“The long jump was a bit down but I am pleased that I am back,” Ennis said, adding that she experienced no pain whatsoever during the competition. “Last year I missed everything. It was hard to miss the Olympic Games in Beijing. It was a long process of recovery from the injury but I had time to rest my body and be ready for this year. The injury gave me motivation to be back in my best ever shape.”

“I came to Desenzano with the goal to score the qualifying limit (6100pts) for the World Championships. Any result beyond the qualifying score for Berlin would be a bonus.”

“I was feeling nervous and unsure of how I would perform,” Ennis continued. “The 12.98 gave me a real boost and after that I started to feel better.”

Takes down 17-year-old meeting record

The effort was rewarded with a new Desenzano meeting record which cancelled the long-standing Multistars standard of 6565 points set by Romania’s Liliana Nastase in 1992. Nastase, the World silver medallist at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, was invited in Desenzano as a special guest and congratulated Ennis on her new meeting record.

“Desenzano is like a family thing,” said Toni Minichiello, a British coach of Italian origin who has worked with Ennis for a long time. “We have a special relationship with Meeting Organizer Gianni Lombardi and his daughter Barbara. They are very nice.”
“Jessica scored her best ever first day score of 4003 points,” Minichiello said. “I am particularly pleased with it. She cleared 1.90m in the high jump and she has started training for this event only last February. I did not really expect 6587 points.”

Minichiello is married to former heptathlete Nicola Minichiello, who turned to winter sports and took part in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino in the bobsled. Nicola trained Ennis for one year until she was 13 years old when the promising athlete began her training relationship with Nicola’s husband Tony.

Ennis started with athletics at the age of 10 during a summer camp called StarTrack where she showed her promising talent in many athletics disciplines. She came to the fore at the 2005 European Junior Championships in Riga where she took the gold in the heptathlon. In March 2006 Ennis made a major breakthrough winning the bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne with 6269 points in a competition won by her compatriot Kelly Sotherton. During the summer of 2006 Ennis continued her progress by improving her PB to 6287, finishing eighth at the European Championships in Gothenburg.

She narrowly missed a medal in Osaka a year later where she finished fourth behind Sotherton. In the Japanes city, she clocked a remarkable PB of 12.97 in the 100m Hurdles and 23.15 in the 200m. At the end of the 2007 season in which she also finished sixth in the Pentathlon at the European Indoor Championships on home turf in Birmingham and won the bronze medal in the 100m Hurdles at the European Under 23 Championships in Debrecen, the Briton was voted as the European Under 23 Female Athlete of the Year by the European Athletics Association. She became a full-time athlete upon graduation in psychology at the Sheffield University in 2007.

As London 2012 looms, Berlin the focus

During this weekend’s Desenzano Multistars, Ennis was closely followed by a BBC television crew who were preparing a documentary on the build-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Ennis is one of the main stars of British sport chosen by the BBC Television for a series of special documentary programmes to prepare British sport fans for the “Biggest Sport Show on Earth”.

“The BBC will be following me throughout the whole season which leads to Berlin,” Ennis said. “They are very nice. I am happy to be part of this documentary. They are giving an insight into different sport disciplines in preparation of the London Olympics.”

London 2012 is in three years time so for now Ennis is firmly focused on this summer’s World Championships on the famous blue track of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

“I have to decide my plan leading up to Berlin,” she said. “I will take part in some individual events in Great Britain and abroad, like the 100m Hurdles and perhaps the High Jump at the British National Championships. After Berlin we will decide whether to compete in a third IAAF Combined Events meeting to be ranked for the Challenge.”

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF