Jessica Ennis-Hill will only compete in the heptathlon in Gotzis at the end of the month if she is 100 per cent ready for the gruelling two-day event, according to her coach.
The Olympic champion raced for the first time in almost two years on Saturday, clocking 13.14 seconds to finish third over 100 metres hurdles at the Great CityGames in Manchester.
The thousands who squeezed into Deansgate to celebrate her return on the purpose-built city centre track were just happy to see her back.
Ennis-Hill, though, admitted afterwards she lacked race sharpness, hardly surprising given she was returning from a 22-month absence and following the birth of her son Reggie.
Her coach Toni Minichiello said he was “happy enough” with her comeback performance, even if her rhythm over the barriers had yet to return and there remained “a bit of work to do”, but emphasised that a showdown with the world’s best multi-eventers was a wholly different proposition.
Minichiello said: “I need to put another couple of weeks of training in to know where we are in other events and see some other indicators in training that say it’s worth going (to Gotzis).
“Are we just going there for the sake of going or are we going there to produce a performance that has an Olympic qualifying score?
“If you put your toe on the line, you’re ready, you’ve said you’re ready. Heptathlon is a two-day event, seven events, a lot more physically demanding.
“Are we ready to participate in that kind of competition? If we’re ready then fine. There are three or four different options after Gotzis, so there is a lot of time.”
Ennis-Hill, who is scheduled to go head to head with 22-year-old compatriot Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the new queen of the heptathlon, in the west Austrian town, has to assess how her troublesome Achilles has reacted to her comeback. She said in the immediate aftermath of the race that Gotzis was “still very much” in her mind.
The endgame for the 29-year-old is the defence of her Olympic crown in Rio next summer, the starting point for which is the qualifying standard of 6,200 points.
In her last heptathlon at London 2012 she broke the British record with a score of 6,955, but nearly three years on the picture is very different. The Sheffield athlete, and her coach, are journeying into the unknown.
“Every woman is different,” Minichiello said. “You take your time, see how she responds and learn as we go. I haven’t got all the answers, I’m learning on the hoof.”
Minichiello said the qualifying mark for Rio was the “primary target” of the year, to avoid having to chase it in 2016, with the secondary one the 6075 needed to make the World Championships in Beijing in August.
But he revealed competing in the hurdles rather than the heptathlon in Beijing was also an option.
“Nothing’s off the table, nothing’s on the table,” he said.