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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Go Jess go! After shot put disappointment Ennis ends first day on a high in 200m and is back in gold contention in heptathlon

•Home favourite started bid for heptathlon gold with stunning 100m hurdles run and then cleared 1.86m in high jump
•She did sit top of the leaderboard with 2,249 points, a lead of 25 before finishing a disappointing ninth in shot put
•Best throw of 14.28 means she slides down to second overall with 3,062 points
•Thrilling 200m race puts her back in the driving seat with a lead of 184 points

By Paul Harris, Louise Eccles and Barbara Davies

Joy: Jessica Ennis raises her arms in celebration after finishing the 200-meter race in the heptathlon competition earlier today

Jessica Ennis sent the Olympic stadium into raptures yesterday with Act One of a stellar heptathlon performance – then she got set for gold.

The 26-year-old star brought a capacity crowd to its feet with a sensational start to the athletics, setting a British record in the event for the 100-metre hurdles.

Now she is preparing for Act Two today, with a chance to fulfil her dream, and with hopes of a gold medal weighing constantly on her slender shoulders.

Event four: Jessica Ennis claims a personal best in the 200m to put her back in the driving seat for heptathlon gold

Thumbs up: Ennis is leading the way in the heptathlon after the first day of action at the Olympic Stadium

In remarkable scenes before 80,000 spectators and a TV audience of millions, she jumped for joy... ran for glory... and won the support of a nation for the most important two days in her sporting life.

At one stage she was conducting applause from the track by raising her arms and turning 360 degrees around the vast Olympic stadium, creating the most electrifying atmosphere it has seen so far.

‘Go girl! Go Jess!’ they bellowed, chanting ‘En-nis! En-nis!’ until it reached a crescendo.

But the Sheffield-born champion was rendered ‘speechless’ when she saw her 12.54 second record for the 100-metre hurdles flash up on the scoreboard – a lifetime best, and equal to the gold medal winning time in the women’s hurdles in Beijing.

Close call: Jessica Ennis crosses the finish line of the 200 metre run

The end of the race: Jessica Ennis crosses the finish line in lane 7 with Jessica Zelinka of Canada in lane number six

Record run: Ennis ran a personal best in the 200m putting her on top of the leader board

The amazing performance propelled her instantly to the top of the leader board, precisely the kind of start she needed. And still the crowd cheered.

‘Show us yer abs!’, a lone voice demanded as she took off her tracksuit for the high jump. (The 2012 poster girl has come to be known as the Ab Fab pin-up because of her enviable six-pack abdominal muscles and torso, repeatedly grandstanded yesterday to the delight of front-row spectators).

Sometimes the crowd cranked up the volume so much it drowned out the names of the athletes as they were announced on loudspeakers. When they clapped and stamped their feet, it vibrated all through the stands.

High hopes: Jessica Ennis fell slightly behind in the heptathlon after a disappointing shot put, but is expected to claw back some ground in the 200m

Jumping for victory: Jessica Ennis during the Women's Heptathlon High Jump at the Olympic Stadium

Words of advice: Jessica Ennis listens to her coach Toni Minichiello as she competes in the Women's Heptathlon High Jump

Home support: The crowd inside the Olympic Stadium roared as the 26-year-old stepped up for her attempt

‘It just blew me away to be honest,’ Ennis said afterwards. ‘How much they got behind me was amazing. You try and prepare yourself but it’s nothing like you can imagine. It was a great start to the day.’

The athletics were conducted in breaks between a loudspeaker soundtrack that blared out hits from the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, among others – plus Bob Marley’s Sun is Shining when it pelted with rain for a few minutes, flooding uncovered areas in the stands and drenching lower-tier spectators in their seats.

Barely a single empty seat could be spotted inside the stadium when Ennis and her team-mates were in the arena.

Her parents Vinnie Ennis and Alison Powell were here – waving a Union Flag and cheering their daughter towards victory at every stage. ‘This is her dream,’ they said – then spoke of their hopes that she will achieve her ambition to win gold in front of a home crowd.

Spirit: Jessica Ennis congratulates Katerina Johnson Thompson as she competes in the high jump phase of the pentathlon

‘She has dreamed about this for so long,’ Miss Powell said. ‘It has been a long wait, and she has worked very hard.’

Elsewhere, crowds gathered at a giant screen in the Olympic Park, the Stratford equivalent of Wimbledon’s Murray Mount.

There was another in Sheffield’s Don Valley stadium, where she first ran as a 13-year-old. Her secondary school hosted a final ‘good luck’ celebration, and the city council appeared to have contingency plans to cope with a chaotic homecoming if she returns triumphant.

On the internet, Facebook mentions of ‘Ennis’ increased 600-fold around the time she chalked up her first stunning result.

But it meant Ennis, who was absent from Beijing four years ago through injury, is now under intense pressure to come up with a gold.

Uniquely in the public mind, and possibly in her own, winning mere silver would be regarded as failure. Tony Minichiello, her coach since childhood, said she was probably the only person in the British track-and-field team who, if she fails to win gold, it would be viewed as a loss.

Jessica Ennis made an explosive start to her 100m hurdles heat and raced away from the field to claim victory in a world best time

Ennis (left) earned 1,195 points from her time of 12.54 seconds, the fastest hurdles time ever run in a heptathlon

Ennis left the field trailing in heat five of the 100m hurdles, recording a time of 12.54 seconds

The hurdles event is usually one of Ennis's strongest, so she will have to sustain her form in the high jump, shot put and 200m later today

Sometimes I surprise even myself! Ennis reacts with a smile after her brilliant start to the heptathlon

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