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Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Monday, 26 July 2010 17:13 UK

European Athletics 2010: Ennis aims to lead GB charge

European Athletics Championships 2010
Venue: Barcelona Dates: 27 July - 1 August
Coverage: Watch live on BBC HD, BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Sport website (UK users only); Live coverage on BBC Radio 5 live; Highlights of the biggest events on demand online (UK only) Full details

Ennis excited ahead of Europeans

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport in Barcelona

Jessica Ennis leads the British team into this week's European Championships confident that she is over the virus that threatened to wreck her season.

Although Ennis arrives in Barcelona as the world number one and favourite for heptathlon gold, an infection of the inner ear earlier this month left her so dizzy she was unable to train.

She told BBC Sport: "In Gateshead a fortnight ago I still didn't quite feel myself - I still felt sluggish. But out here in my sessions I feel completely different.

"I've got some good training in. I feel like I've done some good stuff out here, some good times, so I'm feeling much better than I did a few weeks ago.

Van Commenee sets sights on 15 medals

"You can feel it when you're in good shape. My training has felt easier, and it flows a lot better. I feel like I've caught up on what I missed."

Made team skipper for the championships, Ennis is hoping to inspire her compatriots to their best showing at a Europeans in recent history.

She said: "Everyone's been looking in great shape at the track in the holding camp in Portugal, and from what I've seen we're going to do pretty well.

"We had a team meeting and I did a speech talking about making the most of opportunities. There's a good atmosphere in the camp, and we're ready to win some gold medals."

Head coach Charles van Commenee has already downgraded his initial prediction that the team could surpass their previous best European medal haul, the 18 medals bagged in Split 20 years ago.

Rooney focused on European success

But the Dutchman remains optimistic that the memories of their disappointing display in Gothenburg four years ago, when they totalled 11 medals with no individual golds, will be banished.

He said: "I expressed an ambition to have the best possible result of all time, but since then we have had quite a few casualties and one pregnancy.

"That ambition that was already quite ambitious is maybe even more ambitious now. But I would be embarrassed if we don't at least make the UK Sport target of 10 to 15 medals."

Van Commenee has come under fire in some quarters for his tough selection criteria. His squad is one of the smallest in recent years, and 30 athletes with the European qualification standard in their events have been left at home.

While in 1990 Britain filled 91 of the 124 spots available in various events, this year they will take up only 61 of 130 possible places, a drop from 73% to 47%.

If we come back with two or three golds, I don't think that's good enough

Former GB star Jonathan Edwards

Van Commenee is unrepentant, even with the absence through injury of possible gold medallists Christine Ohuruogu, Paula Radcliffe, Greg Rutherford and Germaine Mason.

"Ennis is obviously there to win gold," said Van Commenee. "Anything else will be a disappointment. I'm sure there will be another. There are quite a few athletes who could do that."

Leading the medal charge should be 400m hurdler Dai Greene, who has clocked the five fastest times by a European this summer.

"Preparation has been going really well," said the Welshman. "I'm getting faster all the time. I'm coming into some good form - I ran a season's best in my last race, and training is getting better which is always pleasing for an athlete.

Dai Greene
Hurdler Greene has blitzed his competitors so far this season

"There's only one outcome I want in Barcelona, and that's to take home the gold."

Mo Farah is strongly fancied in the 10,000m, with another medal shot in the 5,000m should he be able to get the longer race out of his legs, while world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu could benefit from the recent injury problems of French youngster Teddy Tamgho.

The Frenchman stunned the sport by producing a jump of 17.98m in New York earlier this season, the third longest effort in history, but the world indoor champion tore his calf muscle at his national championships a fortnight ago and only confirmed his participation on Monday.

"If I am here in Barcelona, it is because I am fit and ready to jump," he said. "Anything is possible. You are going to see the heavens."

In his fourth European Championships, Dwain Chambers must hold off the brilliant young Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre if he is to win a gold to replace the one from 2002 that was later stripped from him after his admission of doping.

Lemaitre became the first white man to run under 10 seconds when he clocked 9.98 seconds in Valence earlier this month, and at 21 has already run faster than both Asafa Powell and Carl Lewis at the same age.

Farah targets Euro gold

British 800m champion Michael Rimmer, 400m man Martin Rooney and Andy Baddeley over 1500m also have outside shots of gold, while sprint hurdlers Andy Turner and Will Sharman are two of the four men separated at the top of the European rankings by just five hundredths of a second.

Lisa Dobriskey, who won 1500m bronze at the Worlds in Berlin, will hope to see off the challenge of Russia's Anna Alminova and go at least one better while Jenny Meadows, 800m silver medallist a year ago, is coming back into form just in time after calf and Achilles problems.

At those Worlds last summer, 11 British athletes finished as the highest-ranked Europeans in their event.

But the spate of injuries may make it difficult to match the haul from Budapest 12 years ago, when a team containing Denise Lewis, Steve Backley, Iwan Thomas and Darren Campbell brought back nine golds and 16 medals in total.

606: DEBATE

Another Briton to win gold back then, Jonathan Edwards, believes that would represent a fine return for his successors in the British vest.

"If we do 15, I think over half of them being gold medals would represent a decent championships," said Edwards, who is in Barcelona for BBC Sport. "If we come back with two or three golds, I don't think that's good enough."

The city's last major athletics event was the Olympics of 1992, and the same Montjuic Stadium is the host venue once again.

A new Mondo track has been laid, the same distinctive blue material that produced fast times in Berlin's Olympiastadion last summer.

In the last month Spain has seen its sportsmen win the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Whether those stellar successes will overshadow or inspire the track and field deeds of the next week no-one is yet quite sure.



see also
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics
GB look to Euro success
24 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Meadows 'pain free' after injury
26 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Injured Pavey to miss Europeans
25 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Sanders vows to get back to best
22 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Ohuruogu misses out on Euro place
06 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Rutherford out of European Champs
21 Jul 10 |  Athletics
Rimmer hopes to win first medal
21 Jul 10 |  Athletics


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