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Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 17:20 UK

Ennis on edge of greatness

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


Jess Ennis

By Mark Ashenden

Seven events over two days finishing with a two-lap run. It's no wonder heptathlete Jessica Ennis fears the gut-busting 800m finale.

"I am dreading it but I will give it everything," she told BBC Sport. "I give each event 100% and don't leave anything left in the tank. There's no point in saving anything when you come to that last event and seeing where you end up."

The 23-year-old from Sheffield will burst out of the blocks on Saturday at 0910 BST for the first heptathlon event - the 100m hurdles - at the World Championships in Berlin.

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It is something she could only have dreamed of 15 months ago as the floods of tears followed being told a fractured right ankle had forced her out of the Beijing Olympics.

But after a stunning summer - victory and a personal best in May in her first heptathlon since injury and a double win at the World trials last month - Ennis starts as the only world number one in the GB squad and favourite for gold.

It is a tag well-deserved, according to somebody who knows a thing or two about the pain of the 800m from nine years ago.

Denise Lewis, legs bandaged and lungs fit to explode, hobbled round those two laps to win Olympic gold in Sydney and on Sunday at around 1953 BST inside the BBC commentary box at Berlin's Olympic Stadium she believes she could be witnessing similar heroics from Ennis.

"Jess has a great chance of becoming Britain's first ever heptathlon World champion," 37-year-old Lewis said.

"I am really excited to watch Jess. It's a tough competition but she is full of confidence and has as good a chance as anybody."

Off the track it would be easy to wonder where this easy-going and effervescent athlete gets her strength and steely determination from to cope with the intensity and rigours of multi-eventing.

Denise Lewis
Lewis recovers after the 800m secured her gold in Sydney in 2000

"It's because I'm hardcore!" Ennis joked. "Since taking up athletics I have learned many things. Through experience I'm now able to change my personality and switch it on when I'm on the track. I just love it!"

Following months of adapting to a new take-off in the long jump to reduce the stress in her injured foot - something which has been "very difficult" - and putting in extra hours on her weaker events - shot put and javelin - Ennis admits to feeling "faster and stronger" than ever before.

It is this obsession with improvement and tinkering that impresses Lewis.

"Jess has great technique," the world silver medallist in 1997 and 1999 added. "You can see she's worked from a very young age on most of the events. Plus her speed and body strength makes her very dangerous.

"She has no disastrous events like Kelly Sotherton (notoriously weak in the javelin). She often looked deflated after a bad throw which can be catastrophic."

What advice would an Olympic legend pass onto a champion in the making who has already bagged a Commonwealth bronze in 2006 and was narrowly pushed out of the medals at the 2007 Worlds in Osaka?

"She might be favourite this year but she just has to blank everything out," Lewis said. "She needs to focus on one event at a time and think about technique execution and not the outcome.

"And if she has a bad event she needs to quickly forget about it. Taking that baggage into the following event can mean curtains. She has to just focus on herself and aim to get close to personal bests."

Anything for Ennis to work on?

"She needs to learn to get into winning ways," Lewis added. "She has to learn how to put all her skills together for a championship. But she's still developing and all this will come with experience."

With UK Athletics chief Charles van Commenee expecting five British medals in Berlin and the stuttering form of triple jumper Phillips Idowu and defending 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, Ennis could find the whole of the nation's expectation falling upon her shoulders.

I am in great shape - heptathlete Jess Ennis

Ennis admitted it felt "weird" to have the additional pressure, but added: "I cast my mind back to the Olympics and missing out. I just really appreciate the position I'm in so I'm just trying to enjoy it."

Lewis, an athlete Ennis calls a "massive inspiration", is predicting the effort and pain will have its reward on Sunday evening in front of a packed house in Berlin.

"You know the 800m will hurt but you know it's part of the event. I had to learn to embrace it," she said.

"But it is one of Jess's strong events and that gives you peace of mind. Depending on the points totals, if she needs to move up the podium she'll be confident of doing so. She will fight to the end.

"Jess has the opportunity to take the event by its horns. And if she has two really good events at the start it could even be over by then.

"She has nothing to lose. Over the two days we will finally see what Jess is all about and how she can handle the pressure. She used to be the underdog and the 'promising one' but now is her time."

ENNIS V DOBRYNSKA - PERSONAL BESTS

Event Ennis Dobrynska Advantage Difference
100m hurdles 12.81 sec = 1153 pts 13.44 sec = 1059 pts Ennis 94 pts
High jump 1.95m = 1171 1.86m = 1054 Ennis 117 pts
Shot put 13.96m = 791 17.29m = 1015 Dobrynska 224 pts
200m 23.15 sec = 1064 24.39 sec = 944 Ennis 120 pts
Day 1 score 4179 4072 Ennis 107 pts
Long jump 6.43m = 985 6.63m = 1049 Dobrynska 64 pts
Javelin 46.47m = 792 48.60m = 833 Dobrynska 41 pts
800m 2:09.88 = 966 2:12.96 = 922 Ennis 44 pts
Day 2 score 2743 2804 Dobrynska 61 pts
Total 6922 6876 Ennis 46 pts

Source: Mark Butler, BBC Sport statistician. Totals are personal best scores in each event combined, rather than personal best total scores.



see also
Bolt and Gay ease into 100m semis
15 Aug 09 |  Athletics
GB stars set sights on World gold
14 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Injury ends Mason's Berlin hopes
05 Aug 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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