Jessica Ennis of Great Britain competes in the Women's Heptathlon 100m Hurdles Heat 1 on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Because of the number one favourite in this event, Briton Jessica Ennis, this was one of the most expected events of the athletics competition here with even the British Prime Minister David Cameron watching from the stands. Before the race it seemed like the Olympic title would be a three-way race between Ennis, 2011 World champion Tatyana Chernova (RUS) and Ukrainian reigning Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska. But it isn’t anymore with Ennis crushing anyone’s wildest dreams with a staggering 12.54 national record and Heptathlon world best for her first Olympic start of the career.
The 26-year-old had run a 12.79 personal best in Loughborough in 2011, and her Heptathlon best from 12.81 from Götzis this season, also her season’s best prior to this race. To cut off 0.25 seconds off the 100m hurdles PB in a Heptathlon is absolutely unheard-of at this level. 12.54 gives Jessica Ennis a huge 1195 total points after event one, 42 points more than in her 6906p national record and world-leading heptathlon in Götzis earlier this season and this might well be the competition where she will break 7000 points.
The previous world best in Heptathlon was Sabine John’s (GDR) 12.64 in Potsdam 1984 (and 12.62 wind aided by Eunice Barber FRA in Arles 2005) and Olympic best 12.69 by Jackie Joyner-Kersee in Seoul 1988 in the heptathlon, where she set the standing world record 7291p. Previous British record in 100m hurdles was 12.56 by Tiffany Porter winning her semifinal in Daegu World Championships last year and that too goes to show the real standard of this result today.
In the same fifth and fastest heat were Jessica Zelinka of Canada, already with a 6599 national record this season and a fifth place at the 2008 Olympics, and the 2008 Beijing silver medallist Hyleas Fountain (USA). Both of these athletes set personal bests behind Ennis with Zelinka clocking 12.65 to beat 12.68 at high altitude in Calgary which gave her the national title in 100m hurdles earlier this season and Fountain with 12.70 to erase the 12.78 she ran in Beijing Olympics Heptathlon.
These two will be accompanied to the medal chase by 2008 Olympic champion Dobrynska and 2011 World champion Chernova. Both of the athletes had a decent start to their heptathlons in the event which is not the best for either of them. Dobrynska cut almost half a second off her season’s best to win her heat in 13.57 and Chernova clocked 13.48 for the last place in the fastest heat. Although they are far away from the leaders after the first event, Dobrynska was only 0.14 seconds off her personal best and Chernova 0.16s off, so both of them are well within the range needed to be in good position later in the competition.
The weather, winds and everything was almost perfect at the stadium and a total of 13 athletes set a personal best in the 100m hurdles, amazing number in the heptathlon having 38 total competitors here. Also off to a good start is Pole Karolina Tyminska, fourth in the Daegu Heptathlon last season, clocking 13.22 in her first Heptathlon of the season, just 0.1 seconds off PB in Daegu.
Lyudmyla Yosypenko (UKR) set 13.25 PB followed by Lilli Schwarzkopf (GER) 13.26 PB and both of these athletes are going for the top eight here. The European Champion from Helsinki earlier this season, Ida Antoinette Nana Djimou of France set a big 12.96 personal best for the first career sub-13 second race and young Russian Kristina Savitskaya lowered her PB down to 13.37, both athletes with a big improvement and looking for a place just behind the medals here.
Jessica Ennis leads with 1195p followed by Jessica Zelinka 1178p and Hyleas Fountain is third after the first event, but in all almost everyone was at their best level in the first event.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF