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Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 12:13 UK

GB stars set sights on World gold

ATHLETICS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Berlin Date: 15-23 August
Coverage: Watch the action live and highlights on BBC Two, BBC HD, Red Button, Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website (video for UK users only)
Full BBC coverage details

I am in great shape - heptathlete Jess Ennis

Britain's top three athletes aim to strike gold as the World Championships get under way in Berlin on Saturday.

Jessica Ennis, the hot favourite in the heptathlon after missing the Olympics, is in the "best shape of her life" as her event kicks off the opening day.

Triple jumper Phillips Idowu says he will be "disappointed" not to win after picking up silver in Beijing last year.

Christine Ohuruogu looks to defend her 400m crown as part of a 58-strong team shorn of high jumper Germaine Mason.

The British squad's championships build-up has been far from smooth with Ohuruogu struggling for fitness and form, and injury ruling out heptathlete Kelly Sotherton, Natasha Danvers in the 400m hurdles, 200m runner Toby Sandeman and marathon runner Mara Yamauchi.

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Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe is also battling to recover her fitness after foot surgery in March.

She will gauge her fitness in the New York City Half-Marathon on Sunday before deciding whether to compete in Berlin.

Despite the withdrawals and fitness doubts, UK Athletics chief Charles van Commenee insists the team should still aim to match the five medals won at the last World Championships in Osaka in 2007.

"Going backwards is not the direction we want," he said. "It is the strongest possible team, but probably not the strongest British team of all time."

Ennis, 23, is the brightest medal hope and is Britain's only athlete ranked world number one in her event competing in Germany. She also competes in the 110m hurdles.

The Sheffield star set a personal best in May in her first heptathlon since a foot fracture forced her out of the Olympics, and then won the 100m hurdles and high jump at the World trials last month to prove her all-round potential.

"Although I would never want an injury like that again I feel there are positives I can take from it," Ennis said ahead of the competition starting at 0910 BST on Saturday.

"It made me appreciate how good athletics is and how much I enjoy it. It's just so nice to come back from such a horrible year and I'm really looking forward to Berlin and competing on the world stage."

Other British women with medal chances include Olympic champion Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders in the 400m, the gold and silver medallists from Osaka, Lisa Dobriskey - fourth in Beijing - in the 1500m and javelin star Goldie Sayers, hoping to bag a medal after narrowly missing out at the Games.

Williamson ready to run on big stage

On the men's side Idowu is confident of improving on his triple jump silver in Beijing, while Dwain Chambers and Simeon Williamson have outside chances of winning medals in the 100m, and in-form Mo Farah goes in the 5,000m.

Idowu, 29, who has slipped to five in the world rankings with a season's best 6cm behind Portugal's Olympic champion Nelson Evora, remains upbeat, saying: "I feel good. Anything other than gold would be a disappointment."

The triple jump qualifying is on Sunday evening, with the final scheduled for Tuesday evening.

The sprints are the most anticipated event of any athletics meet and this year's Worlds are no exception. The 100m final is scheduled for 2035 BST on Saturday evening with the 200m final at 1935 on Thursday, 20 August.

I've always felt in my mind that I could challenge Bolt

US sprint star Tyson Gay

Triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt will go head-to-head for the first time this season against Tyson Gay, the quickest man this year in both sprints (9.77 seconds for the 100m, 19.58 for the 200m).

Bolt has enjoyed crushing victories this summer and stated last month that Gay could not beat him.

But the American seems to have overcome his groin problems and after clocking 9.79 in Stockholm two weeks ago and winning the 200m at the London Grand Prix, he is in bullish mood.

"Everyone knows last year the big match-up didn't happen. I'm really looking forward to it this year," the 26-year-old said recently. "I've always felt in my mind that I could challenge Bolt."

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Jamaican, who runs again in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, remains as cool as ever.

"The time to get focused is when the starter says, 'Take your marks'. Before then I'm just chilling and relaxing," he said.

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Other international stars to look out for in Berlin are Russian Yelena Isinbayeva in the pole vault, US triple world sprint champion Allyson Felix, while Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele is going for his fourth consecutive 10,000m title to follow his long-distance double in Beijing.

But his compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba will not defend her 10,000m title after failing to recover from a leg injury.

Dibaba, the double Olympic champion at 5,000m and 10,000m, has not raced much this season but was hopeful of competing at the Worlds after performing well at the London Grand Prix.

She has yet to decide whether to run the 5,000m in Berlin, with the qualifying round on Wednesday.

Her husband, 2004 and 2008 Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Sileshi Sihine, has also pulled out of the men's 10,000m.

The 67,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Berlin is hosting its biggest athletics event since the 1936 Olympics, when American Jesse Owens won four golds and became an icon of racial tolerance at a time of Nazi power in Germany.

The heptathlon, featuring Ennis, gets the Championships under way at 0910 BST on Saturday, 15 August, with the first round of the men's 100m at 1040.

Ohuruogu is also in action in the 400m heats on the first day before the Olympic Stadium hosts the official opening ceremony later on Saturday from 1645 BST, with the men's 100m second round at 1750.

The championships will conclude with the men's 400m relay on Sunday, 23 August, when South Korean city Daegu can start preparing for the 2011 event.



see also
Radcliffe wins NY half-marathon
16 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Injury ends Mason's Berlin hopes
05 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Jamaican stars cleared for Berlin
12 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Battle of the sprint kings
26 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Ohuruogu set to be fit for Berlin
31 Jul 09 |  Athletics
GB pick Chambers in Worlds squad
31 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Ennis injury ends Beijing dream
02 Jun 08 |  Athletics
Ennis's injury woe in pics
04 Jun 08 |  London 2012
Injured Sotherton out of Worlds
20 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics


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