One second it was anguish, the next, surprise and relief, before the final expression to take hold of Jessica Ennis was a look of resignation.
The Sheffield multi-eventer went through the full range of emotions in Istanbul at the World Indoor Championships in just a few short seconds last night as the title slipped from her grasp.
Trailing Natallia Dobrynska by what was believed to be the equivalent of six seconds going into the final leg of the pentathlon last night – the 800m – Ennis crossed the line first, but sensed she had not done enough.
Seconds later the scoreboard flashed up that she had successfully defended her world title and thus continued building the collection of gold medals that adorns her mantlepiece.
For the briefest of seconds her long jump disappointment in the penultimate discipline had been forgotten, Ennis had been reprieved.
But then the knife was twisted one final time when the true outcome was revealed; Dobrynska, the Olympic champion, had won the gold, Ennis the silver.
The Yorkshirewoman greeted it with typical humility but the hurt was palpable.
Silver is creditable by most athlete’s standards but not for a natural born winner like Ennis.
This was the second world title she has relinquished in a little over six months, both of which have come in the last two major meets before the career-defining London Olympics this summer.
Russia’s Tatyana Chernova denied her in the outdoor heptathlon in Daegu when Ennis squandered the lead in the javelin.
Ukraine’s Dobrynska overhauled her in Istanbul last night, when Ennis turned a comfortable lead into a near-insurmountable deficit with an average long jump.
Two defeats, two apparent weaknesses and two opponents in excellent form at the right time.
Afterwards, Ennis admitted she was “gutted” to lose, especially after briefly thinking she had pulled off a remarkable victory in Istanbul. She trailed Dobrynska by a massive 93 points and the 26-year-old did all she could by taking almost four and a half seconds off her indoor personal best in winning the 800m.
However, that was because Dobrynska’s score for the 800m had not yet been added to her total, a total which eventually read 5,013 points for a new world record.
Ennis had to settle for silver and a new personal best and British record of 4,965, with Lithuania’s Austra Skujyte in third and Russia’s Chernova a distant fifth.
“I need to make sure I learn from these experiences, get it right and turn silver into gold this summer,” Ennis said in reference to the Olympic Games in London.
As for thinking she had won, she added: “It’s the worst feeling in the world. I just had to run my heart out, my plan was to stay with (Karolina) Tyminska and I did that and just literally glanced up and saw my name in first position and thought I’ve won it and (then had) the excitement and then obviously the devastation to know I was second.
“There’s disappointment because I wanted to come here and retain my title but I had some good performances today, some things I need to go away and work on, but for a world record to win it obviously shows the standard is extremely high. Dobrynska has the knack of staying below par but being brilliant in Olympic year, coming out and breaking world records and winning gold medals. She’s in great form.”
Ennis led by 86 points after winning the 60m hurdles in 7.91secs – her second fastest time ever – and increased that lead to 109 following the high jump, despite only clearing 1.87m with her final attempt.
However, even a personal best of 14.79m in the shot was not enough to prevent her lead being slashed to just 10 points before a sub-par performance in the long jump – where jumps of 6.19m and 6.18m were followed by a foul in the final round – left her 93 points behind Dobrynska, who won the long jump with 6.57m.
“I think I was just reaching for the board, I need to go back and have a look at it,” Ennis added.
“That’s the nature of pentathlon and heptathlon. You have good events, you have bad events, it doesn’t always come together and that’s the key, getting everything to come together on those two days or that one day.
“I am happy because two silver medals at world champs is great but I would have loved to have won a gold medal. I believe things happen for a reason and hopefully that reason’s going to come clear later on in the year.
“I’ve learnt loads from this competition, I learnt loads from Daegu.
“I’m definitely in better shape now, I’m stronger, I’m doing PBs, but there are still things to work on, still things to improve so I can still hopefully get more points.”