↑ Scroll to top

World record beckons as Jessica Ennis faces arch-rival Tatyana Chernova in women’s pentathlon

Published: March 9, 2012 | 10:57 am
Text size: -A +A

“Everyone likes to create a big rivalry it’s not just us two, not by any means,” protested Jessica Ennis before setting out to defend her pentathlon title at the World Indoor Championships here on Friday against Tatyana Chernova, who stripped her of the world heptathlon title last year.

Sheffield’s finest is right, of course: this is no two-thoroughbred race, yet for a sport whose lifeblood has long been head-to-head competition between charismatic personalities, the burgeoning little-and-large jostling between Ennis, Britain’s Olympic poster girl, and Chernova, Russia’s ice-cool strapping champion, has become quite irresistible.
It is what Charles van Commenee, Britain’s chief coach, calls “the very essence of sport, the best in the world, in form, head-to-head in the blocks in what could be the highlight of the championships” with both athletes knowing that, in all probability, they will have to break the world record and become the first athlete to crack the 5,000-point barrier if they are to strike gold on Friday night at the Atakoy Arena.
Friday’s five-course feast is only the hors d’oeuvre in Olympic year, before the seven-course heptathlon banquet which awaits in August. Chernova is one cool customer; her eyes lit up here on Thursday when she envisioned the picture of 80,000 souls in London’s Olympic Stadium all rooting for Ennis against her.

Video: Ennis and Chernova prepare

“She will have the whole stadium of fans but I think to win, you don’t need the whole crowd, just two or three, and with me will be my father [a local sports minister], my mother [a former Olympic 400m runner] and my coach,” said the Russian. “They believe in me and I believe in them. I will do anything to realise my dream.”

The first part of that 2012 dream starts here and neither combatant is trying to play down the significance of today’s battle. The winner, says Ennis, will be offered a “massive psychological boost” before the Games, while Chernova clearly believes if she can beat her rival in a multi-event format probably more suited to Ennis’s strengths, then she will have struck a major mental blow.
Ennis is now the pursuer after Chernova ripped her heptathlon world title off her in Daegu last year, but the Yorkshire athlete may still be the one with more to lose on Friday.
The one-day indoor pentathlon, which comprises four of the seven heptathlon events plus a 60m hurdles rather than a 100m hurdles, is Ennis’s territory. There is no 200m, in which the Briton is faster, but the lack of Chernova’s vastly superior javelin throwing significantly tips the balance in the defending champion’s favour.
It promises to be extremely close. If they both replicate their best-ever performances indoors on Friday, Ennis would win by 23 points, but the inescapable feeling has been that the Russian, younger by two years, taller by nine inches and heavier by a stone, is inexorably powering past her on the road to London.
Chernova has improved by almost 500 points over the past three years, which is effectively five times faster than Ennis over the same period.
“I hope I’ll be a much better athlete than last year,” said the Russian, and if her relentless progress does continue with a decisive win and the eclipsing of her compatriot Irina Belova’s 10-year-old world record of 4,991 pts, it would make her an outstanding favourite for London.
Ennis sounds convinced the 5,000-point barrier may have to go for a place atop the podium.
“I got quite close to it when winning in Doha two years ago [4,937pts] and it wasn’t something I’d thought about before. But judging from the shape we’re all in, it’s obviously going to take a personal best to get gold. I’m not focussing on the record but it would be a nice bonus.”

Chernova, whose pentathlon best is 82pts shy of Ennis’s, is relishing the prospect of another battle. “When we have competed in years before and this year, this is a good fight for people to see,” she said. “All the people talk about Jessica and me – but, of course, I don’t forget about the other girls.”
Both are wise not to. Chernova’s Ukrainian pal, Natalya Dobrynska, the Olympic champion, recorded a lifetime best 4,880pts to win her national title last month, while even Ennis’s coach, Toni Minichiello, admits he knows absolutely nothing of Chernova’s compatriot, Ekaterina Bolshova, who has emerged from obscurity this winter to improve her best by more than 500pts and record the year’s best total, 4,896pts.
Ultimately, though, Ennis remains the one to beat. She admits it is the ideal scenario to enter the Olympics still cloaked with a world champion’s sheen. To lose one world crown would be unfortunate, to lose both might feel just a bit alarming.

Not that Ennis sees it that way. After a winter in which she has set lifetime bests in both the long jump and sprint hurdles, she seems in a good place. Gold or no gold here, she shrugs: “The only thing I’d ask is to be injury-free, healthy and go into those two days in London in the best possible shape.” Her big heart and huge talent would then, a nation trusts, do the rest.


VN:F [1.9.10_1130]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
More posts in category: Latest News
  • ‘Dark Knight’ creator Nolan sticks to 2 dimensions
  • MATCH REPORT: Sheffield United 1 Bury 1
  • Schalke v Arsenal: we can still top Champions League Group B says returning Bacary Sagna
  • Ford Motor Co. looks to foods and crops for greener cars