It started like a dream, it ended in heartbreak… Jessica Ennis blasted out of her blocks to a lightning start to her pentathlon venture over the hurdles but a similar, yet sharper, fluctuating performing pattern to Daegu saw her surrender a second title in a row at the back end of the day.

The early to mid stages of the pentathlon hardly suggested that Ennis could possibly miss out on gold

Astonishingly enough, it wasn’t Tatyana Chernova, widely touted as the major threat in the run-up, to thwart her plans as the Russian languished nearly anonymous on the fringes of the affair but Olympic champion Natalya Dobrynska who struck a decisive blow out of the woodwork right when her own challenge looked like weathered away.

As Ennis admitted post-competition, there can always be slip-ups on the way as such is the nature of multi-events but what might suggest an alarming streak was that they cropped up on the same corners of the arena, namely the jumps. Which, in turn, is mystifying seeing that her build-up in both disciplines was very promising; an indoor PB of 6.47m in the long jump and a straight return to 1.90s in the high jump.

The European champion is a fierce competitor second to none, never lacking mettle or desire, and an ultimate professional that leaves nothing to chance in her preparations so how those ‘lapses’ in her performance could be possibly accounted for? This is going to be a very challenging area for her and coach Tony Minichiello to probe effectively over the following months and smoothe out any potential underlying issue leading up to London.

There was plenty of speculation hanging around over how genuine was Chernova’s 8.02 secs in the 60m hurdles recently at the Russian Championships. Such a mark could substantially shift the dynamics of the contest and the towering Russian was called on to confirm her revised status. Well, in the end she hardly did herself any favours in the face of it, just as her season-find compatriot Ekaterina Bolshova nowhere near justified her startling early season huge world-leading PB of 4896pts.

Ennis screamed out of her marks to leave everyone else for dead by hurdle two and blazed down the track to claim the race by a street in a sizzling 7.91 secs, her second fastest ever worth 1150pts, and gain a firm hold on the lead from the off as Chernova struggled in vain to offer any sort of competition in a distant second in 8.29 secs for 1064pts, within her familiar standards.

Dobrynska arrived further behind in third in 8.38 secs to pick up 1044pts whereas Bolshova wound up a disappointing last but one in 8.62 secs for just 991pts.

The first damage to Ennis’s chances may have been brought on in the high jump as she departed well earlier than anticipated with only 1.87m (1067pts) to her name, at the third effort at that, but that didn’t seem to matter much at the time as Bolshova tied at the same height, with Chernova staying a notch lower along with Dobrynska at 1.84 (1029pts).

And it looked all but game over when the Briton rebounded well from a relatively slow start of 13.89 to register a SB of 14.39m second time out and wind up to a big total PB of 14.79m (847pts) in the final round of the shot, soaking up the anticipated counter-attack of Dobrynska who had to do with 16.51m (962pts, SB) in a stronghold of hers.

That was the place where the Ukrainian would have hoped to mount a charge to the front, a 17 plus performer, but Ennis held on to her lead even by a shade to effectively tighten her grip on gold.

Austra Skujyte (LTU) moved into the top three (second) for the first time with 16.26m (946pts) whereas Chernova looked done despite a SB of 13.90 (787pts) and Bolshova threw the towel into the circle after a poor 12.07m (666pts) at the bottom of the order.

Nevertheless, Ennis was caught on the hop and left stranded as Dobrynska hit a SB of 6.57m (1030pts) at the death in the long jump to turn the affair thoroughly round into a firm favourite with a lead of 93pts and just a discipline to spare, making the best of the Briton’s slump to just 6.19m (908pts) compounded with a foul in the final round, while Skujyte remained second as the two swapped places either side of her.

The final stages of the pentathlon with Dobrynska setting a new world record

The ghosts of Daegu manifested themselves to haunt Ennis again as she went into the 800m chasing the nearly impossible of beating the Ukrainian with at least a 6.5 secs margin, which turned a bridge too far in the end. The final act was simply played out with Dobrynska shadowing her every move round the track to keep within safe distance of a late surge in a PB of 2:11.15 and finally clinch the much coveted global crown.

On top of that, the fast pace ensured she toppled the long-standing world record of Irina Belova (RUS) with a total of 5013pts in the wake to become the first ever marker to breach the barrier of 5000pts in history, doubling the effect and her delight – it’s not a little thing making history after all.

Ennis was still rewarded for her heroic efforts with a new UK record of 4965pts for silver as she crossed the line first in a PB of 2:08.09 and will take plenty of material to the drawing-board in order to lay out the best possible campaign to London. If anything, she knows that she is still the best, what she has got to do is make sure she doesn’t fall into the same pitfalls again.

Skujyte held comfortably the third spot for a well-deserved bronze on also a national record of 4802 pts but Chernova will be far from pleased to wind up fifth on 4725 and so will be a mere sixth Bolshova on 4639pts.

Eaton marches on in the heptathlon

By stark contrast to a knife-edged pentathlon, the men’s equivalent has turned into an Aston Eaton vs the scoring system affair that can hardly bear the term contest as his rivals cannot anywhere near keep up with his dizzy pace through the disciplines.

The American may have been somewhat slow out of his marks to a 6.79 secs (958pts) in the 60m, still sufficient to hand him an early 29-point edge, but settled quickly into his stride to take off to a sensational PB of 8.16m (1102pts) in the long jump and well on world record pace, gathering 2060pts and a 151pts lead on Oleksiy Kasyanov (UKR).

A second PB on the bounce with 14.56m (763pts) in the shot injected further impetus into his challenge to 2823pts after three disciplines, Kasyanov slicing off the deficit to 110pts, and Eaton topped off the first day over a SB of 2.03m (831pts) for a total of 3654pts so far, a sound 165pts on the Ukrainian and a full 365pts on currently third-placed Artem Lukyanenko (RUS).

Elsewhere…

Dwain Chambers kept his nerve and coped well to start the defence of his title on the front foot as he commanded the last first-round heat of the 60m in 6.65 secs amidst nearly farcical circumstances that as good as compromised the credibility of the championships on the first day. What with the malfunction of speakers in the starting blocks and the system failing to identify flyers time and again, there was havoc wreaked and heavy casualties made across the opening flights of heats in both men’s dash and the women’s hurdles.

None more so than slight pre-event favourite Lerone Clarke (JAM) who was left chasing shadows and even hobbled injured across the line in just 7.05 secs in the third heat for a short-lived cameo in the championships as Italian Simone Collio was allowed to get away with a blatant false-start, winning in 6.68 secs.

All the same, former world champion Justin Gatlin showed composure to put away the penultimate section in 6.64 secs with ease and suggest an early favourite, fastest out of the preliminaries, as countryman Trell Kimmons had notched the previous run in a slower 6.70 secs.

In the same light, sensational American Kristi Castlin, top-ranked in the world, was left watching in dismay as the other runners were going away waiting for a recall that never came after a flyer apparently coming from the adjacent left lane by final top-placer Alina Talay (BLR, 8.11) in the second heat, with Jamaican Vonette Dixon also pulling over after the second hurdle in the same thought.

British captain Tiffany Porter, having born the brunt of a renewed malicious ‘plastic Brit’ attack by Daily Mail, negotiated her task and tension superbly to come away a thorough winner of heat three in 8 secs dead and assert herself as a genuine medal contender, nevertheless it was global outdoor champion Sally Pearson (AUS) that sent rumbles of thunder around the arena as she stormed over the sticks to a blistering 7.85 secs to emerge as red hot favourite for gold, a new Oceanian record from the outset.

Both Brits made their way into the semifinals of the men’s 800m although via different routes in a preliminary round that saw Sudan’s Ismail Ismail, fourth in Doha, bomb out early but otherwise followed normal service.

Joe Thomas opted to take matters from the front this once to put away the fourth heat in 1:49.73 but a foot injury creeping in saw him slightly struggle in the dying stages and could compromise his chances. On the other hand, Andie Osagie was narrowly edged out of the automatic places by a mere two hundredths into third in the same time earlier in the second section and endured a nervous wait before he ensured of his own passage as best of six fastest losers, yet rather comfortably in the end.

Results

http://www.iaaf.org/mini/wic12/Results/ResultsByDate.aspx?racedate=03-09-2012

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