LONDON – Jessica Ennis, the darling of British athletics and poster girl for the London Games, lived up to the sky-high expectations of a demanding public to claim gold in the women’s heptathlon on Saturday.
Three personal bests in the seven disciplines that make up the gruelling two-day event helped Ennis to a winning total in a dominant display that thrilled the sell-out 80,000-capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
Russian world champion Tatyana Chernova claimed silver with 6,628 points, with Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Yosypenko taking bronze in a personal best of 6,618.
It was an especially sweet triumph for Ennis because she missed out on the Beijing Olympics through injury.
Ennis set personal bests in the 100m hurdles (12.54sec) and 200m (22.83sec) on Friday for 4,158 points, an overnight lead of 184 points on Lithuanian Austra Skujyte.
The 26-year-old Sheffield-born former world champion got her second day off to a great start with a long jump of 6.48m for a total of 5,159.
That increased her lead over Skujyte to 258pts, with Chernova moving into third overall (4,869) with a leading 6.54m in the long jump.
In front of roars and applause from a vociferous crowd, Ennis then managed a third personal best of 47.49m in her weakest event, the javelin.
Skujyte threw 51.13m to cut Ennis’ lead to 188pts, but the Lithuanian’s best time in the 800m was seven seconds slower than Ennis, meaning the Briton was realistically sitting pretty with just two laps of the track to complete to tie up gold.
As she was introduced in lane four, a visibly nervous Ennis raised her arms to a deafening roar, flashes of cameras and waving Union Jacks.
When the gun went off, Ennis started confidently and went to the front with Skujyte trailing last of the nine-strong heat.
Ennis was overtaken with 250m to go, but kicked past Chernova and Germany’s Lili Schwarzkopf to produce a fantastic home stretch sprint that could not have been better scripted, crossing the line in 2:08.65.
Ennis then paraded around the stadium draped in her own Union Jack on which was written “Jessica Ennis – Olympic champion”.
Defending Olympic champion Natallia Dobrynska of Ukraine, who won the 2012 world indoor pentathlon title in a world record total just days before her husband and coach Dmytro Polyakov died, had earlier seen her medal hopes vanish.
In 10th position on 3,835pts overnight, Dobrynska had a nightmare in the long jump, with two no jumps on her first two of three efforts.
She then botched her run-up for her third effort, recording only 3.70m to leave her languishing in 33rd, an unsurmountable 1,082 points off Ennis. The Ukrainian withdrew before the javelin.
Polish podium hope Karolina Tyminska also failed to register a mark in the long jump, and the fourth-placed finisher in the Daegu worlds was forced out.
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