Jessica Ennis-Hill produced her best shot put performance since London 2012 as the Olympic champion led her first heptathlon of the year after day one, in Ratingen, Germany.
The 30-year-old started the IAAF Combined Events Challenge by running the 100m hurdles in 13.13sec into a headwind and driving rain, before clearing a respectable 1.84m in the high jump. But it was in the shot put where Ennis-Hill excelled, clearing 14 metres twice including a final throw of 14.29m, before she finished the day with a season’s best 23.36sec in the 200m.
That put her on 3,990 points after the first day – just 15 fewer than her score after four events when winning gold at the world championships in Beijing last year. It was also nearly 200 points ahead of her nearest challenger, Carolin Schäfer, who was third in the prestigious Götzis Hypo-Meeting last month.
Ennis-Hill will compete in the long jump, javelin and 800m tomorrow in what will be her last full heptathlon before heading to Rio in early August.
In Birmingham, meanwhile, the focus will be on the battle for Olympic places with the men’s 200m likely to prove the most dramatic race of the day. Zharnel Hughes, who was fifth in Beijing last year, goes up against Adam Gemili and Nethaneel Mitchell Blake – who have both run under 20 seconds – as well as James Ellington and Richard Kilty.
The women’s 800m also looks set for an intriguing battle with the favourite Lynsey Sharp taking on Jenny Meadows and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke. There was a major surprise in the semi-finals as Adelle Tracey missed out, finishing second to Oskan-Clarke in her heat.
Meanwhile Seren Bundy-Davies and Emily Diamond set up a face off for the women’s 400m tomorrow by breezing through their respective semi-finals after the former Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu withdrew with a virus.
Afterwards Bundy-Davies echoed the thoughts of many British athletes by saying she found it “really upsetting” that this could be the last UK Olympic trials with all four home nations competing because the Brexit vote could lead to Scotland and Northern Ireland pushing for independence.
“I don’t know any athletes that voted to leave,” she added. “Great Britain is such a special team because of the way countries come together to compete, so I just hope this is not the end result.”
The reigning European 400m champion Martyn Rooney, whose main challengers for the two automatic places will be Rabah Yousif and Matthew Hudson-Smith, said such a momentous decision shouldn’t have been decided on such a narrow margin. “If I was making such a far-ranging decision on 51% of the vote I would rethink it. For such a big change it should be more like 75%.”
His fellow 400m runner Andrew Steele agreed. “Most athletes tend to have a more international outlook because we travel a lot,” he said. “We’re aware of different cultures and that is probably a better basis to which to make these decisions as opposed to people who have only been to Benidorm once.”
Steele said he hoped that this would not be the last time all four nations competed in an Olympic trial together. “It could change a lot,” he said. “We would be forced to identify ourselves as English not British, and personally I don’t want to do that. I’ve no interest in anyone dividing us. But thanks to the childhood battles of two men from the same class in Eton, we could be forced into this position.”
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