OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN: ‘We’re ready and waiting’ says Sheffield lass Jess

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ATTENTION to detail is often what sets apart the good from the great.

So, to begin an interview with Olympic Games heptathlon gold medal prospect Jessica Ennis by talking about ‘100 days’ to go to the Games is to start from the backfoot.

We should really be having this conversation next week.

Ennis will step on the track at the Olympic Stadium in London around about 10am on Friday, August 3 (107 days away for those taking note) for the 100 metre hurdles part of the seven-discipline event.

As one of the ‘faces’ of the Games a lot is expected of the Millhouses-based former King Ecgbert and University of Sheffield student.

However, as she chats on the way to a training session with javelin coach Mick Hill in Leeds she sounds as relaxed as ever.

“I never really take notice of countdowns or date landmarks,” she says, immediately putting to bed any notion that there are big red crosses being scrawled across a calendar in the Ennis household.

“I’m focusing on my next event and training. I never really know how many days there are to go.”

What the former world champion is diligent about though, is her work.

Energy sapping training since the World Indoor Championships in early March that has left her in her own words feeling ‘tired and stiff’ has put her in magnificent shape for the outdoor season.

She said: “I’m glad I did the indoor season; it gave me a good idea of where I was.

“The World Indoors are gone and forgotten about now and I’m ready to start competing outdoors.”

The first challenge for Ennis, which may come over the next couple of weekends, is to throw the javelin far enough to qualify for the elite group of throwers in the heptathlon.

In last year’s World Championship in Daegu she couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with eventual winner Tatyana Chernova as the Russian built up an unassailable lead.

Ennis’s long-time coach Toni Minichiello believes it is important that she gets in the main javelin group alongside rivals Chernova, Nataliya Dobrynska of the Ukraine and Austra Skujyte of Lithuania and not the ‘B’ pool.

He said: “The shot put should be no problem but we need to be looking at around 46 metres in the javelin.

“She’s looking great in training and has put a lot of work in.”

Ennis can afford not be clock checking because she knows how good she feels. However, it is Minichiello’s job to make sure every second of time is accounted for before the starting gun sounds.

He estimates she has 80 training days remaining, which may be eaten into by travelling or competing.

That gives Ennis around 16 weeks broken down into individual sessions. She may do long jump twice a week, for instance - 32 practices before the Games...

When the figures are examined like that then it’s no wonder the heavy training work will end this week.

It’s time for sharpening up, testing herself at the Yorkshire Championships at the Dorothy Hyman Stadium in Barnsley on May 12-13 and on the streets of Manchester in the City Games on May 20.

And then her final heptathlon before London, in Gotzis, Austria, on May 26-27, where she’ll take on all the other major contenders for gold.

“My focus is on Gotzis at the moment,” says Ennis. “Training has gone really well.

“I’ve worked really hard at my starts in the hurdles and that paid off indoors, so I can’t wait to start competing again.”