Sporting greatness beckons but golden girl Ennis plans to take it step by step

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A COMMONWEALTH title, regaining her world crown, true sporting greatness or even a switch to the hurdles are all on the agenda for Olympic champion Jessica Ennis over the next few years.

The queen of British athletics has the world at her feet after fulfilling her childhood ambition of standing on the top step of the podium with Olympic gold draped around her neck.

Her coronation in London in August provided one of the most evocative images of even this spectacular sporting summer.

And after scaling such heights she is reaping the rewards of maximised publicity and milking the acclaim for all it is worth.

And who would blame her?

Yet there remains within Ennis a burning desire to be the best she can be in her chosen field.

While it may only be a flicker right now as she appears on chat shows and promotes her autobiography, by the time the athletics season kicks off early next year, the hungry, focussed Ennis that we have all come to know will be back in full flight.

Winning the Olympic title in front of her home crowd might be the pinnacle and will arguably never be matched, but there are still goals to be achieved.

Ennis wants to regain the world title she lost to Russia’s Tatyana Chernova at the world championships in Moscow next summer.

The 26-year-old Sheffield sweetheart also craves a Commonwealth title, the only major accolade missing from her glittering cv.

Becoming the fourth woman to break the 7,000-point barrier in the heptathlon is also an aspiration.

And if she does of all of that, Ennis might be focussing on the 100m hurdles in four years in Rio, such was the manner of her performance in the discipline that kicked-off her remarkable Olympic journey in London.

Whatever event she contests in Brazil in 2016, she will approach it having plotted her route to Rio as methodically as ever.

“I’ve got to be realistic and take it a year at a time and not set myself up for a huge disappointment,” said Ennis at the launch of her autobiography Unbelievable this week.

“I cannot set my heights and my standards too high, I have to take it step by step.

“It would be incredible to be able to defend my title in the heptathlon, it would be amazing to do that, but it is a very big ask for an athlete to win back-to-back gold medals at an Olympics.

“Usain Bolt can do that but it’s very hard. Four years is a big gap.

“I would like to do the hurdles in the future. Next year is going to be the heptathlon, but it would be nice to specialise in the hurdles one day.”

Her time of 12.54 seconds in the 100m hurdles in London took everyone, including Ennis, by surprise. She shaved a quarter of a second off her personal best in issuing a major statement of intent on the first morning of the biggest heptathlon of her life.

The fact that the time would have been good enough for fourth place in the individual competition got thoughts turning towards how devastating she could be if she focussed full-time at that event.

But she will be 30 by the start of the next Olympics, and has learned over the past two cycles that thinking too far ahead of herself can only end in disappointment. Hence the focus on next year’s mission to Moscow.

“Worlds will be my main focus next year,” said Ennis, who lost the global title she won in Berlin last year in Daegu.

“I’m not fixating on it just yet, I’m just getting back into training and getting through the winter stuff.

“This time of year you’ve just got to do it, you’ve got to switch your mind off on the winter runs and the circuit training and get through it.

“As we get into next year that’s when I’ll get focused on the worlds.

“It’s definitely different being back in training to how it was last October because that was Olympic year and I had the biggest year ahead of me.

“I’m now back in training for the next best thing, so it’s really different. It takes a bit of time to adjust, but you get into the swing of things.

“It would be amazing to regain the world title in Chernova’s home territory.

“She’s going to be so motivated and after this year (took bronze behind Ennis) she’s going to want to win there, so it’s going to be tough. I’ll see what I can do.”

The Commonwealth Games is also back on Ennis’s radar. Six years ago in Melbourne she won her first major medal, a bronze, which served as a major platform. But she skipped Delhi in 2010 in favour of training for and winning European gold in Barcelona.

Having sampled what a British crowd can do for a home athlete in London, she hopes for more of the same in Glasgow in 2014.

Ennis said: “A Commonwealth title would be nice, but having said that, having European, world and Olympic gold medals is brilliant. I would love to get the Commonwealth gold as well to complete the set.”

The mythical 7,000-point barrier, something that has been breached only three times before, is also in Ennis’s sights, though she has no desire to play up her prospects of doing that given how demanding the test.

Her superb performance in London earned her a career-high 6,955, and while there is room for improvement in the field events particularly, she knows just what it will take to get there.

“It’s nice to have the 7,000 as a goal to work towards but I know that’s going to be hard,” said Ennis. “That means me replicating what I did in London, with all the adrenalin and that huge crowd. I’m probably not going to have an arena like that again so I’m going to have to replicate that and then some.”

Ennis will sit down with coach Toni Minichiello and UK Athletics performance director Neil Black in the new year to plan her 2013 programme.

The European Indoor Championships in March in Gothenburg is a possibility, but only if she is 100 per cent sure of where she wants to be.

The traditional Yorkshire events she does at Dorothy Hyman Stadium in Cudworth and events in Sheffield could all be factored in, such is the enjoyment she derives from competing in front of her local crowd.

Whatever happens, it is clear that Jessica Ennis is not content at being just an Olympic champion.