Jessica Ennis made a dream start to her bid for Olympic gold, but insists she cannot let up for a moment if she is to reign triumphant tonight.
The 26-year-old from Sheffield set personal bests at the start and end of day one to take a stranglehold on the London 2012 Olympic heptathlon.
She set the third-highest first-day mark in history and goes into this morning’s long jump and javelin, and the closing 800m this evening, knowing more of the same will ensure she is crowned Olympic champion.
Ennis scored 4,158 points yesterday for a lead of 184 points over Lithuania’s Austra Skujyte, who has excelled in the field events, with Canada’s Jessica Zelinka third.
Russia’s Tatyana Chernova and Ukraine’s Nataliya Dobrynska are ninth and 10th respectively, and all but out of the gold medal equation.
Ennis, who finished with a personal best of 22.88 seconds in the 200m, said: “I feel tired, but I’m absolutely made up with the day.
“To perform like that with two personal bests and to end with a PB in the 200 is a brilliant start.
“Coming into this I knew I was in good shape, but I could never imagine performing like this. I’ve definitely exceeded my expectations.”
The long jump, which is first up this morning, has been her weakest event in recent times while she also lost her world title last year because of a poor javelin.
If Skujyte is to overtake her, she would have to do it this morning with Ennis stronger than the Lithuanian in the 800m.
But given Ennis’s performances so far, which included a record-breaking sprint in the 100m hurdles yesterday morning, she looks primed to win gold tonight. “I just need to have three really solid performances and just keep doing what I know I’m capable of,” said Ennis.
“It has been great (yesterday) but there’s still a lot to work on (today).”
Ennis delivered an emphatic statement of intent in the first event. The 100m hurdles has always been her strongest discipline, and as the one that starts the heptathlon provides a chance for her to lay down a marker.
But the manner in which she did so was staggering.
Running in the fifth and final heat, Ennis was pushed all the way by Zelinka and much-fancied American athlete Hyleas Fountain. But she sped away after the final hurdle and crossed the line in 12.54secs, obliterating her personal best by a quarter of a second.
No one in the previous four heats had broken 13 seconds, including Dobrynska.
In that heat alone, there were five who managed it, setting personal bests in the process.
Ennis’s time was blistering. It was the fastest by a woman in an Olympic heptathlon competition.
Taking the hurdles in isolation, it was a UK record, and only 0.33 seconds shy of the world record.
What is more, 12.54 secs matched the time Dawn Harper set in winning the Olympic 100m hurdles title in Beijing.
Ennis is entered for the individual 100m hurdles event which begins on Monday, but will leave a decision on whether she takes part in that until after tonight.
But it was a truly breathtaking start from the Sheffield woman and set the tone.
“It was a great start to the day. I’m literally speechless,” she said after surprising even herself with how fast she ran. “I can’t believe the time. I’m in shock.
“I felt ready for the event after all my hard work and training, but I didn’t think I would do that great.
“I was nervous but strangely calm. I’m not usually like this before major championships. Stepping into the stadium blew me away. The crowd was amazing.”
There were not the fireworks of the hurdles in the high jump, but at least Ennis maintained first place going into the evening session.
She failed three times at 1.89m – six centimetres shy of her personal best – after only clearing 1.86m at the final attempt.
That clearance was vital as it kept fast-starting Fountain from overtaking her after the American performed more solidly in the second event.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t get another height,” said Ennis. “But 1.86m is a good height.”
Ennis then finished eighth in the shot putt as Skujyte hurled the shot a heptathlon-best 17.31m to rise up the leaderboard, before Ennis fought back in the 200m.
Middlesbrough’s Chris Tomlinson qualified in fifth place for tonight’s long jump final.
The 30-year-old leapt 8.06m, two centimetres behind British rival Greg Rutherford and only five centimetres adrift of top qualifier Mauro Da Silva of Brazil.
“(Saturday) night is going to be incredible with me and Greg and Jess all going for it,” said Tomlinson.
“It’ll be a great night for Britain.
“I’m just going to go out and enjoy it. I am one of those athletes who just goes out and does it for entertainment.”
Mo Farah also goes for gold tonight in the 10,000m.