Friday, 12 August 2016
Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Jessica Ennis-Hill start heptathlon in style
• Johnson-Thompson takes early lead after high jump personal best
• Ennis-Hill wins 100m hurdles then records her be
st jump for four years
The cream quickly rose to the top on the opening day of the heptathlon with Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Jessica Ennis-Hill producing spectacular performances in the first two events with the Canadian Brianne Thiesen-Eaton, who leads the standings this year, also deep in the mix for gold.
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Day seven brings the start of the athletics, with Jessica Ennis-Hill on the track, plus Bradley Wiggins in the velodrome
Ennis-Hill made a typically fast start during the morning’s action, winning the 100m hurdles, and then cleared 1.89m in the high jump – her best since the UK Indoor trials of February 2012. Johnson-Thompson kept the pressure on as she recovered from a so-so hurdles to make a series of first-time clearances that culminated in a personal best of 1.98m in the high jump.
It meant that after two events Johnson-Thompson led with 2,264 points, with the Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, who also cleared 1.98m, second on 2,252, and Ennis-Hill just behind on 2,242. Theisen-Eaton was fifth on 2,151 but has her stronger events to come.
Before the start of every heptathlon Ennis-Hill’s mere presence sows doubts in her rivals’ minds. They know that the opening event is her strongest and they will be playing catch-up from the off. Through repeated experience, they also know that Ennis-Hill always delivers close to her best, whatever her physical condition. Some people allow pressure to engulf them. The Olympic champion is so strong mentally she is able to brush it off.
Johnson-Thompson was the first of the major contenders to appear in the 100m hurdles, in the penultimate heat, and produced a solid time of 13.48sec. It was not quite as quick as her performance at the world championships in Beijing last year but it was good enough to score 1,053 points.
Then it was Ennis-Hill’s turn. Outside her was Thiesen-Eaton. Both looked nervous: Ennis-Hill slapped her hamstrings and shook her shoulders, trying to release the tension, Thiesen-Eaton managing only the thinnest of smiles.
When the gun went off, Ennis-Hill was out of the blocks fastest and over the hurdles smoothest, coming through to win in 12.84. She ran 0.08sec faster at the Anniversary Games last month and it was 0.30sec slower than when she won gold at London 2012, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield was happy to take the time and the lead with a score of 1,149. Thiesen-Eaton was sixth with 1,097.
In the heats of the men’s 800m Britain’s Michael Rimmer did well to avoid the trouble in a tetchy third heat to qualify for the semi-finals in third behind David Rudisha, who looked easy in winning in 1min 45.09sec. Rudisha then issued an ominous warning: “I’m in good form, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I’m finding my last power in finishing, the last 100m. I think I’m in a position to control the end of my races.
“There’s a lot of pressure coming here as defending champion and the world record-holder but I feel like almost close to my good years of 2010 to 2012.”
Rimmer, who ran 1:45.99, said he was not entirely satisfied with his form. “It didn’t feel great out there, I felt a bit sluggish,” he said. “I’ve tapered off quite a bit longer than normal, just to try something different, because in the past I’ve always struggled to get out of the semi-finals. But hopefully that means I’ll be a bit more switched tomorrow.
“There was a lot of pushing and shoving,” he added, “but it was nice to get that back straight in nice and smooth and not be boxed in.”
“I’ve never got to a global final and I think if I finish my career without that happening it would be a waste of talent so that’s the aim.”
“I’ll put myself in the best position I can tomorrow and hopefully the legs turn up with me and I can run a good race. I think it will take a big season’s best, so I’ve got to be ready for that.”
There was disappointment for Britain’s other 800m runner, Elliot Giles, who went out after finishing seventh in his heat in 1:47.88. Giles, who has had a hamstring niggle, said: “I didn’t get through because of that, I didn’t get through because I just didn’t have enough left for the last 100m. I thought I felt good but I tried to go and I just couldn’t get going.
“There’s no excuses besides I just wasn’t good enough. It’s not a learning curve, it’s just an experience and what I could do different from now I just don’t know. The first lap was slow so I should’ve been fine but I just had no get-go. There just wasn’t anything left in the tank. You live and learn.”