Saturday, August 04, 2012

Ennis Could Be Catalyst For A New Golden Era

The spectacular triumph of Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon will inspire thousands of youngsters, writes Sky's Ian Dovaston.
Jessica Ennis
Jessica Ennis is seen as the face of the London 2012 Games

Ian Dovaston

Sports News Correspondent

For seven years, Jessica Ennis has contemplated this moment.

Having the gold medal hung around her neck at an Olympic stadium purpose-built for London 2012.

She had the good fortune to reach her peak at the time of a home Olympics. But she used that good fortune so perfectly, executed her performances so brilliantly, and worked so hard that she deserves everything that now comes her way.

She accepted the 'face of the Games' tag, and with it the role model status.

The 26-year-old is an inspiration to thousands of youngsters attending athletics summer camps up and down the country.

That's how she began, following the trail from arenas like the Don Valley Stadium in her home city of Sheffield all the way to the top.
Don Valley Stadium
Ennis' journey has taken her from the Don Valley Stadium to Olympic glory

There cannot have been a day for some time when Ennis didn't consider that she would have to show the fruits of her labours to 80,000 screaming souls in Stratford.

On some days, that cannot have been an easy prospect. But her response to their vocal support in her first event of the heptathlon said everything about her. She didn't wilt, she grew.

Suddenly, she produced her fastest ever 100m hurdles run, 12.54 seconds. And not just her fastest, but the fastest ever by a woman in a multi-event and the fastest ever by any British woman who has attempted it. Indeed, the Beijing Olympic final of the 100m hurdles was won in the same time.

Her opponents in London's Olympic Stadium had been sent an unequivocal message, that Ennis wasn't feeling the pressure. She was thriving in its glare.

She went on to set a lifetime best in the 200m, and led the heptathlon points table overnight into the second and final day.

At the beginning of that second day, she might have buckled in an event - the long jump - which has proved awkward for her in the past.
Seb Coe
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Seb Coe is also from Sheffield

But she performed well in the pit, and then even better still with the javelin, throwing a lifetime best.

For her, the 800m was a procession. She might as well have been Bradley Wiggins pedalling onto the Champs Élysées that July day in Paris, knowing that history had been made.

But she seemed intent on winning over two laps to give the crowd still more to celebrate. And might she also have had on her mind that 7,000 points figure so coveted by heptathletes?

Only three women have broken that mark, and Ennis will surely join them soon since she seems unlikely to yield to too many of the distractions that will now come her way.

Ennis broke her own British record, and missed 7000 points by just 45. That was small agony against the ecstasy of her Olympic achievement, but it showed the size of her ambition.

There are suggestions she may even compete on Monday in the 100 metres hurdles, since she is in such scintillating form. She is entered for the event, but more as a back-up measure. We shall see.

Ennis' victory may have spurred on other Team GB athletes at the stadium

Ennis's influence on those around her may well have inspired the unprecedented hour that followed in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.

Officially the greatest day in British athletics, it spawned golds for long jumper Greg Rutherford and for Mo Farah. But perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised by either.

Rutherford went into the competition as the top ranked long jumper in the world.

Farah has been going head to head with the Africans in what has become their event for many years and deserves his triumph. It is the best 10,000m performance at a major championships by any Briton since Mike McLeod's silver in 1984.

But Ennis was flagbearer on British athletics' greatest night.

There is something about her that recalls a golden era in British athletics back in the 1980s.

Mo Farah gave the best 10,000m performance by a Briton for nearly 30 years

Before the tears of the medal ceremony, she was kissed by Lord Coe, who emerged himself as a world-beating athlete from the proud city of Sheffield in those heady golden days of the late 70s and 80s.

That he should now be organising the games where Ennis has triumphed so spectacularly heralds something special in track and field.

Let the good times roll, and let this home Olympics and Ennis and Rutherford and Farah be the catalyst for a new golden era.

Now that would be a great London 2012 legacy.


Post a Comment