Jessica Ennis believes she will have to set a new personal best and lower her British record to win Olympic gold this summer.
The 26-year-old Sheffield heptathlete broke Denise Lewis’s British record in Gotzis, Austria, in May with a lifetime best of 6,906 points.
That shattered the 12-year mark of 6,831 set by Lewis in the Olympic final in Sydney 12 years ago.
And although Ennis defeated her main rivals for gold in Austria she believes she will have to go even better to win the Olympic heptathlon on August 3 and 4.
Russia’s Tatyana Chernova and Ukraine’s Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska came home 132 and 600 points, respectively, behind Ennis.
But with Chernova having stripped her of her world title in Daegu last year, and Dobrynska of her indoor title in Istanbul in the Spring, Ennis knows she has to up her game again to fend them off in London.
“I think it’s going to take a personal best to win that gold medal,” said Ennis yesterday as she collected her Team GB kit in Loughborough. “There’s going to be big performances from all of the heptathletes out there.
“I know I did well in Gotzis but Chernova and Dobrynska are amazing athletes and they will come back even stronger Games time. I’m really aware of that.
“I’d love personal bests in every event, but I don’t think that will happen.
“Generally, in the events I’m strong at if I can stay close to my season’s best or personal best that would be great, and hopefully I can squeeze another couple of personal bests out.
“I don’t see myself as the favourite, I don’t think there is one favourite.”
In breaking Lewis’s 12-year mark – becoming only the seventh woman to top the 6,900-point mark – Ennis at the very least demonstrated she is in her best form heading into the biggest summer of her life.
As a multi-eventer, the likes of Daley Thompson and Lewis are natural idols for Ennis to look up to, which meant breaking the national record meant that little bit more.
She said: “I’ve seen loads of footage of Daley Thompson and he put in some amazing performances.
“My main memory of the Olympics is obviously Denise Lewis in 2000.
“She’s an inspiration. What she achieved in her career was outstanding and then to cap it with an Olympic gold medal, and not just winning it, but how she did it.
“She was strapped up and had injuries for the whole two days. To come out with a gold medal at the end of it ...
“I know how hard it is to get through a heptathlon but when you’ve got an injury it is 10 times worse.
“So I’ve got a lot of admiration for her and she’s an inspiration to me.
“It was great to beat her British record in Gotzis, everyone had talked about it.
“I got close at the European Championships (Barcelona 2010). Every one was saying ‘you’ll get it this time’, but I didn’t want to get too bothered about it or worried about it.
“I just knew if I got everything right I would get it one day and thankfully it all came together in Gotzis.
“It’s really nice to have it now.”
And if she is to beat Chernova, Dobrynska and everyone else the heptathlon world can throw at her in London, Ennis will do so by staying focused purely on herself.
After an intense period of training at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport, Ennis – along with her coach Toni Minichiello – flies out to the GB athletics camp in Portugal today, when rest and recuperation will be the order of the week.
“The aim is to stay as relaxed as possible,” she said.
“At night I’ll just switch myself off in my room. I’ve got the last series of House on DVD to get through.
“The training from now on will be things like block starts, checking my runways and ensuring I feel comfortable at all aspects.
“All the events are going to be a challenge.
“I need to make sure I get all the events right.
“It’s just a case of keeping things ticking over, because on the flip side you don’t want to just rest for a week.
“I’m pretty happy with where I am. Four years ago I was injured and really disappointed that I wasn’t going to Beijing so I can’t argue with the position that I’m in now.
“I’m happy with all my training, my preparation, my performances.
“I’ve done all I can do.”
Ennis begins her Olympic campaign on the first morning of athletic competition on Friday, August 3.
The heptathlon begins with the 100m hurdles and is followed by the high jump.
The shot putt and the 200m follow in the evening session before Ennis returns to hopefully put the seal on her golden coronation on the Saturday in the long jump, javelin and 800m.
Hoy happy for Kenny to take the solo seat in sprint race
Sir Chris Hoy has given his full backing to Jason Kenny after the Bolton rider denied him the chance to defend all three of his Olympic titles in London.
British Cycling last night confirmed that Bolton rider Kenny had been picked ahead of the 36-year-old Scot to represent Team GB in the individual sprint event, leaving Hoy to compete in the team sprint and the keirin.
Hoy beat Kenny, 24, to the gold medal in Beijing four years ago, and they have been evenly-matched over the last four years.
But with UCI rules dictating that only one rider from each nation can compete in the sprint at the London Games, one of them had to miss out.
It was also confirmed yesterday that Barnsley-born Ed Clancy will compete in both the omnium and the men’s team pursuit.
British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford had elected to leave the decision over the individual sprint as late as possible, but Kenny has been given the nod after he finished in second place ahead of Hoy at the World Championships in Melbourne earlier this year.
Kenny will join Hoy as part of the men’s team sprint alongside Philip Hindes and reserve Ross Edgar.
Despite his disappointment at missing out, Hoy said he had no qualms with the decision and is backing Kenny to take on allcomers at the Games.
Hoy said: “We found out a few weeks ago, it was not out of the blue now. We were told that if things did change they would not hesitate to change the decision.
“But as it stands we have both improved at the same kind of rate so Jason thoroughly deserves it, he has performed really well at the World Championships and he has stepped it up since then as well.
“I don’t want to jinx him or say too much too soon but the rest of the world had better watch out as he is going exceptionally well.”
He added: “They (Brailsford) made the right call. It is not about individual ambition it’s about the team getting the most number of gold medals. They have picked the best sprinter.”