Five British athletes who took a big step on road to Rio in Beijing

Jessica Ennis

Heptathlon The hugely talented athlete arrived in Beijing confident that she was in podium shape despite suffering a frustrating quadriceps injury in June.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

And she proved as good as her word, battling it out with Jessica Ennis-Hill for gold on day two until she fouled three times in the long jump. Just. If her final leap had counted, it would have been measured at 6.82m and her subsequent javelin throws would have put her just 10 points behind Ennis-Hill before the final event, the 800m. “It was probably the worst week of my life,’ she admitted. “It has been a massive learning curve and that is it. I am never going to let this happen again.” If she can stay free of injuries, her battle with Ennis-Hill for gold in Rio will be immense.

Dina Asher-Smith

200m It has been a history-making summer for Asher-Smith, the 19-year-old history student at King’s College, London.First she broke the British 100m record. Then became the first British athlete to go under 11 seconds for the 100m. Then, for good measure, she broke the British 200m record and became the fastest teenager in the world in coming fifth in Beijing with a time of 22.07. Crucially, her talent is matched by her temperament. She is already world-class but she still believes she has much to learn. “In the future I have loads of work to do and experience to get,” she said. Another 10th of a second and she would have won bronze here. At the rate she is progressing she has every chance of stepping up even further.

Shara Proctor

Long jump All summer long, Proctor had promised that she had a seven metre long jump in her. And in the third round in Beijing she proved it by leaping 7.07m to take the lead. Which she held until the American Tianna Bartoletta found a monster jump at the death to deprive her of gold. Not that Proctor was overly disappointed with a particularly sweet silver. “I was on crutches last year at this time,” she said. “I had to learn to walk, I had to learn to run and I just threw it all together and finally executed.” Proctor is only 26 and with an injury-free winter she will hope to improve again. But it will be worth keeping an eye on fellow British competitor, Lorraine Ugen, who also made the long jump final.

Christine Ohuruogu

400m Ohuruogu may seem an odd suggestion for a medal hope given that she trailed in last in the final and will be 32 by the time Rio comes round. However she had a fractured build up to the world championships and afterwards admitted: “It’s a real blessing to even be here, as many times throughout the year I couldn’t be bothered to finish the season because it was so distressing at times”. But British Athletics insiders insist she remains hugely motivated to end her career on a high, and although it is hard to see her adding another Olympic title – another podium place is not beyond her.

Holly Bradshaw

Pole vault It is over three years since Bradshaw (then Holly Bleasdale) announced herself as a world class vaulter with a leap of 4.87m at an indoor meeting in France just two months past her 20th birthday. Her progression hasn’t been the smoothest since, and before Beijing she admitted she was “like a little kid”, after vaulting again for the first time in 16 months following a back injury. That she could jump 4.70m to finish seventh at the world championships was hugely impressive. If – and with Bradshaw it is an if – she can stay fit then she might not be that far away from Cuba’s Yarisley Silva, who took the title by clearing 4.90m.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Sean Ingle, for The Observer on Saturday 29th August 2015 15.40 Europe/London

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