It’s time to gauge just how training is going for the most important year in Jess Ennis’ career so far and what better place to start than in her home city.
Sheffield’s own supreme all-round athlete will contest four events in the sell-out Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships at the English Institute of Sport this weekend as she steps up preparations to secure a historic major championships double in 2012.
Jess will compete in the shot put and high jump on Saturday – the latter of which she has won three times in her career – before taking on the 60m hurdles and long jump on Sunday.
She said: “It’s great competing in Sheffield. It feels quite different to other meets because I live just down the road and I train here most days so it’s all familiar and comfortable. The crowd really gets into the action and I enjoy competing with lots of local support behind me.
“This will be the second meet I will have competed in Sheffield this month. Both have been carefully planned by my coach to fit in with exactly what I need to be doing at this time of year. I’ve just come off some intense winter training that started back in October so I’m really looking forward to competing properly.
“It’s really important at the start of a new season to get a good feel for the competitive shape you are in and it’s only at these meets that you can really gauge how successful your training has been.”
It will all stand her in good stead for the following Saturday when Jess adds her name to the star cast bound for the Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham.
She will compete in the 60m hurdles and long jump events alongside 5000m World Champion Mo Farah, former world record holder Asafa Powell and dual World gold medallist Vivian Cheruiyot.
Ultimately it all adds to vital preparation for her tilt at back-to-back World Indoor crowns in Istanbul next month and her gold medal assault on the London Olympic Games this summer.
Jess will look to retain her World pentathlon title by seeing off her main rival and the woman who took the World outdoor title from her in Daegu last summer, Tatyana Chernova.
“It will be good to line up against a really competitive field before the World Indoor Championships,” she added. “Every competition is important in the build-up to the Championships in March and then I have to re-focus on the outdoor season in what is a huge year for me and all of my fellow athletes. I don’t want to focus on the Olympics too soon. It’s great to know that it’s 2012 but I’m really just trying to take it one meet at a time and keep training hard.
“I’m feeling in really good shape after the winter, everything has gone well and I feel strong and ready to get out there and compete.
“I’d love to repeat the success I had in Doha and defend my World Indoor title and I will give it my best shot.
“There are some really good athletes competing in the heptathlon at the moment and any one of them could step up their game at any time. But I’m happy with the way I’m training and will be giving my all at the World Indoor Championships. I can only control my own preparation and with my coach I am doing just that.”
Jess was in competitive mode at the EIS last Saturday when she took part in the 60 metres hurdles and the long jump at the McCain Indoor City Challenge.
There was an instant return in the hurdles when she recorded a world class time of 8.05 seconds, which helped Sheffield Flames mount a late surge to beat defending champions North London Lions.
She was, however, beaten into second place in the long jump by Manchester Warriors Abigail Irozoru. Jess opened with 6.19 metres but Irozoru responded with 6.30, which beat her personal best by a remarkable 10cm.
Northern champion Louise Bloor just missed out on a sprint double when a poor start in the 60 metres saw her finish runner-up in 7.47 seconds after she’sd stormed her way to victory in the 200 metres in 24.27 seconds.
Luke Cutts won the pole vault with 5.25 metres while Barnsley’s Adele Lassu was runner-up in the high jump with 1.76 metres.
The title-decider is in London next month.
Match score: 1 Sheffield Flames 197.5 points, 2 London North Lions 178.5, 3 Manchester Warriors 162.5, 4 Glasgow Cobras 147.5, 5 London South Sharks 139, 6 Cardiff Dragons 133, 7 Birmingham Falcons 129.5, 8 Newcastle Angels 86.
The Aviva Indoor UK Trials and Championships will be at the EIS this weekend and will be shown live on Channel 4 from 2pm on February 12.
The Aviva Grand Prix takes place at the NIA in Birmingham on February 18 and will be shown live on BBC 1 from 1pm.
Tickets are now sold out for both events. For further information go to uka.org.uk/aviva-series.