Super Saturday the sequel: Ennis-Hill, Farah and Rutherford aim for gold repeat

Team GB's Mo Farah talks to the media

It sounds eerily familiar: Jessica Ennis-Hill favourite in the heptathlon, Mo Farah gunning for gold in the 10,000m and Greg Rutherford desperate to prove the doubters wrong in the long jump.

Between them, they provided the greatest 46 minutes in British athletics’ history by winning three golds in London 2012. Four years on in Rio they have every chance of creating a spectacular sequel: Super Saturday Redux.

Farah has long been the strongest favourite of the three, and his price shortened further still after he became the quickest over 5,000m this year at July’s Anniversary Games. A £100 bet on him at most British bookies to win 10,000m gold would win around £25.

The 33-year-old, who is putting the final touches to his preparations in Font Romeu in the Pyrenees, believes he has the edge over his rivals because of his pedigree. In short, he has repeatedly done it when it matters. While he will be wary of the Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor, who ran the legs off him when winning the world half marathon title in March, Farah believes he remains the man to beat.

“I am a better athlete, but my rivals saw what I did four years ago and they’ve had four years to prepare so it will harder than the first time,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk how the Kenyans are going to come like an army and try and throw me off my game. I know what I would do if I was them, but I ain’t going to tell them.”

Ennis-Hill faces a tough task against her British rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson and the Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who leads the standings this year, but her unerring ability to perform when it matters makes it hard to oppose her. She is as chiselled or fast as she was four years ago, when she destroyed the field to win gold. Is she still good enough?

“The truth is I was probably in a better position before London,” she said. “I had less injuries, had been involved in more competitions and I was at my peak. Since then I have had a break, had injuries and become a mother.

“I would like to think I am a wiser athlete now, and most importantly, I still have that competitive edge.”

Ennis-Hill has been training in Sant Cugat, on the outskirts of Barcelona, rather than join the rest of the British athletes in Belo Horizonte, because she wants to spend more time with her husband, Andy, and her son, Reggie, who is not allowed into the Olympic village. “The training is going very well,” she said. “I have had really good sessions and I am looking forward to testing myself.”

The record books give some hint of the challenge she faces. Only two athletes have had a baby and retained an Olympic title over a four-year cycle. The Australian Shirley Strickland, who won 80m hurdles gold in 1952 and 1956, had a boy, Philip, in 1953. Françoise Mbango Etone won triple jump gold in Athens 2004 for Cameroon, had a boy, Niels, in 2006, then retained gold in Beijing two years later.

Ennis-Hill, who won gold at the world championships last year, said: “I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry on and I doubted I would get to Rio. When I had my son, Reggie, it made me question whether I wanted to still do all the training. I had already won a gold medal, so maybe I should just call it a day. It was tough, the pain seemed to hurt a million times more, but I set myself the goal to compete at one more Olympics. It has been hard, but worth it.”

Then there is Rutherford, who has never quite received the adulation and credit he deserves despite brilliantly adding to his Olympic gold with European, Commonwealth and world titles.

That would surely change if the 29-year-old walked away with another gold and he goes into Rio as a narrow favourite over the American trio of Jeff Henderson, Jarrion Lawson and Marquis Dendy. “Winning one gold medal is tough enough,” he said. “And retaining it is even more difficult, but equally something that is very doable.

“It would mean a hell of a lot to me – probably the crowning glory of my whole career. It would be nice to do it, not just for myself, but for friends, family and the team that puts so much effort into getting me where I am.

“It would also be something to share with my son, to say that he was around and present on this earth when I managed to achieve something like that. So it would be something special.”

You can get around 8-1 with the bookies on a three-peat of Super Saturday. Come the early hours of next Sunday morning, that may yet turn out to be a shrewd investment.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Sean Ingle in Rio de Janeiro, for The Observer on Saturday 6th August 2016 10.45 Europe/London

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