Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hurdles Chaos for Jess


Olympic heptathlon gold medal contender, Jessica Ennis endured a rollercoaster ride of emotions after winning this afternoon’s 110m hurdles at the Great Manchester CityGames – her elation diluting to anger just minutes after her victory on the back of an unusual technical error, writes Nicola Bamford.

The 26-year-old Sheffield-based multi-eventer originally recorded an impressive 12.75 lifetime best along Deansgate’s temporary track earlier today, beating defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper of the USA (12.86) and her compatriot, world silver-medallist Danielle Carruthers (13.02) but just thirty minutes later, her excitement was cruelly turned into devastation as rumours of a missing hurdle turned out to be true.

Guided by Toni Minichello, the Yorkshire athlete – who’s previous sits at 12.79 from last August – was left visibly confused and frustrated at the incident, having previously revealed her delight at an excellent days’ work:

“I feel let down - I felt like it was a good race, I was running well and I was obviously coming through at the end - stick another hurdle on there it would have been the same outcome but ahhh, I’m so annoyed. What can I say?” she said in the aftermath of the hurdles chaos.  

“I’ve still had a good competitive race but I’ve just not got the result that I wanted - maybe I’ll have to save it for next weekend (in the combined events meeting in Gotzis) and check the number of hurdles, I’ll have to walk down the track and count.

“I can’t believe that - it’s a great event but that’s a massive, massive mess up. I was just talking to Dawn Harper and to me it didn’t feel any different but Gemma Bennett (fourth in 13.54) was saying she felt that it was a long run off, but you just run don’t you?

“You expect that all the hurdles will be out and everything’s the way it should be and you just run as fast as you can and get across the line and that’s what I did but unfortunately, it wasn’t set up right.”


As Team GB’s poster girl for the Games, the reigning world indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon silver-medallist is understandably eager to have a trouble-free 2012 campaign and the misfortune in the north-west city ignited sincere apologies from the organisers.

UK Athletics – on behalf of their team of officials and race organisers, Nova International – issued a statement shortly after the confusion and disappointment:

“We can confirm that due to human error, only nine sets of hurdles rather than the required ten, were put on the track for the women’s 110m hurdles event this afternoon,” they said.

“We employ leading UKA officials to manage this vital element of the event on our behalf, and we will of course be investigating this unfortunate occurrence further with them.

“On behalf of all this staging the Great CityGames today, we would like to apologise for this unacceptable incident, and in particular to the athletes.”

Determined to use her frustration as fuel to motivate her to replicate her evident fine form, Ennis explained:

 “I do feel let down to be honest because it’s a great opportunity for me to come and race here and it was a great race - when you’re in the middle of a race, you don’t really notice -  obviously if it was set at the wrong distance you would, but I just didn’t notice.”

Heading to the annual Austrian meeting a few days from now to hone her Olympic preparation against her fiercest rivals for gold in London, she continued: 

“I’m going to go into next weekend giving it everything, I know I’m in good shape and I’m capable of running a good time but yeah, I am frustrated because it is just so annoying.

“I would love to run a time like that again and just get some really solid performances in, just make sure everything’s really consistent.”

Looking to go close to her personal best score of 6,823 from her victory in the 2010 European Championships Ennis divulged:

“More than anything I just want really solid performances, not for one event to really let me down – when you do PB’s and do a great performance, you do take a lot of confidence from that so I would love to do that as well.”

Engaged to be married next year, the British indoor pentathlon record-holder took many positives out of her city-centre race, in what has been an eye-catching season so far:

“It was a good race so I’m really pleased - training’s been going well and I’ve hurdled well indoors, so I knew it was going in the right direction.

“I don’t expect to come to these races and to win, I just really want to run close to my personal best, season best because it’s all about points to me at the end of the day so to actually come and win its brilliant.”


Despite the almost unheard of circumstances, the 2009 World heptathlon champion was generous in
her opinion of the event in general:

“I think people see today as quite a fun event which it is – I think it’s good preparation really, because it’s a different kind of environment - the crowds really close to you and everyone’s shouting your name and wanting pictures so it’s being able to deal with the and keep focused and concentrate on competing.

“It’s good practice and when you are at the start and everyone’s cheering for you, it’s a really nice feeling, it just helps bring that extra performance in you.”

Having faced devastation in the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after fracturing her right foot in three places, Ennis is confident of reaching the Games in medal-winning form and still hasn’t ruled out doing a ‘heptathlon-hurdles’ double eleven weeks from now:

“I would love to do the hurdles there as well but I just really feel it’s too close (in the timetable) and I just want to keep really focused on the heptathlon.

“If there was the opportunity to do it I would, but I just think it’s too close this year - my name will be down in case anything happens.”

And as today proved, anything indeed really can happen in elite sport.

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