Sheffield, UKJessica Ennis was the star attraction at the UK Trials and Championships this weekend (11-12) as the reigning World indoor Pentathlon champion geared up to defend her title in Istanbul next month with morale boosting wins in the High Jump and hurdles.
Ennis, who lost her outdoor crown in the Heptathlon to Tatyana Chernova in Daegu, has described her indoor campaign as a vital step on the road towards an Olympic showdown with the Russian this summer.
She made a positive start in front of her home crowd in Sheffield, matching her personal best in the 60m Hurdles and proving well up to the task when put under severe pressure in the High Jump.
"I’m really, really happy with the weekend," she said after completing a rare double last achieved at a UK championships back in 1971. "My form looks promising and shows that training has gone well over the winter."
There was also some impressive sprinting, not least from Britain's other reigning World indoor champion, Dwain Chambers, who took his fifth UK men's 60m title, while Jeanette Kwakye continued her return to form with victory in the women's 60.
Elsewhere there were wins for Yamile Aldama in the women's Triple Jump and Holly Bleasdale in the Pole Vault, both guaranteeing their places on Britain's Istanbul team, while Shara Proctor was a fraction short of the British record in the women's Long Jump.
Morale-boosting double duty for Ennis
Ennis began on Saturday with an encouraging win in the High Jump, a contest that proved to be a test of nerves.
She eventually won with an easy clearance at 1.91m before having three narrow failures at 1.93m, just a centimetre below her indoor best. But she came mighty close to defeat at the hands Emma Perkins, a virtual unknown who improved her personal best by 8cm to finish second with 1.89m.
Ennis had needed two jumps to lift herself over 1.85m and 1.87m and had to call on all her experience and composure to make 1.89m with her last attempt. The High Jump was one of the events where she lost points to Chernova last August, and she was especially pleased to turn adversity to triumph, showing the kind of steely determination she'll need in Turkey and London over the coming months.
"It’s nice to start off jumping in the 90s because that’s what I need to do in the Pentathlon or Heptathlon," she said. "I’m always happy if I can come out and jump like that, it’s promising for the rest of the year.
"I think you do worry a bit when you have two no-jumps because you don’t want to go out at that height, but you have to get yourself together and refocus."
She was certainly together on Sunday when she ran two scintillating 60m Hurdles races, skimming over the barriers to equal her PB of 7.95 in both races, good enough for fourth in the world this year.
"We’ve been doing a lot of work on my starts, so I was just trying to get out the blocks quicker," she said.
"I think last year I was getting too close to the hurdles and I didn’t have the confidence to attack them. This year I’ve just practiced and practiced and it’s coming together now."
She also managed a decent effort in the Shot Put where a second round throw of 14.09m was supplemented by 14.07m and two more over 13.50m.
"I said beforehand I wanted to throw 14 metres or more, so I'm relatively happy with that," she said. "I will need to throw 14 in Istanbul and hopefully I can add a bit more by then."
Ennis will contest the Long Jump and hurdles at the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham next Saturday before she heads off the Turkey.
Chambers edges Robertson for fifth 60m title
Chambers will also be on the plane to Istanbul after he dipped below the 6.60 qualifier to win a close tussle with Andrew Robertson in the 60m final. He almost dipped through the crash barriers at the end of the track too so desperate was he to stay ahead of the young challenger.
Robertson is a new name on the British sprinting scene and at 21 he has 12 years on the experienced Chambers. It looked for a moment as though youth would triumph but Chambers' held his form to win in 6.58 with Robertson three hundredths behind.
"I’m going to be confident that I can retain my title," said Chambers. "I’m going to have strong competition. I believe Asafa Powell may be there, you never know who may turn up and put out a good performance on the day. I’m just going to go there and try to defend."
In the women's 60m, a bullet start from Kwakye was enough to hold off the fast-finishing teenager Jodie Williams in a final loaded with potential winners.
Kwakye won world indoor silver in 2008 and was an Olympic finalist, but she has suffered years of injury since. She looked close to old self here as she clocked 7.20 to beat Williams with Laura Turner outrunning Ade Oyepitan for third.
Williams, fourth in last year's European indoor championships, will now have a crack at the World indoor seniors as she slipped under the qualifying standard with 7.29.
The one name missing from the final was Asha Philip, who two weeks ago handed Williams her first ever defeat by another British athlete. The 2007 World youth champion was the quickest in the country before this weekend but she false started in the semi-final.
There was great sprinting in the women's 200m too where Margaret Adeoye showed blistering form to win in 23.36. The 26-year-old was a surprise winner at the international match in Glasgow two week ago and on Saturday moved up to fourth in the world this year.
In three races, she's improved her best by almost a full second in 2012 and now sits ninth on the UK all-time list. She must wish this was still a championships event.
Proctor and Bleasdale highlight the infield
Aldama enjoyed winning her first UK title as she improved her season's best by 6cm with 14.09m. The Daegu world finalist also leapt 14.03 and 13.75 but would have been happier with another 60cm.
"It was good to win my first trials in a GB vest," said the former Cuban. "It was a good competition but you always want more and I’m really waiting on that big one."
Ennis opted out of the Long Jump contest but the competition barely suffered as two women chased each other through the rounds. Shara Procter eventually won with 6.68m, a PB by 1cm, equal to Fiona May's 2004 stadium record and just 2cm short of the 15-year-old British record. It also moves her up to number eight in the world this year and into medal contention in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Abigail Irozuru, a former World junior finalist, improved her PB three times from 6.30 to 6.44 to finish second.
Britain's latest pole vault star Holly Bleasedale broke the stadium record twice as she retained her title. The world number two needed only one jump to win, at 4.52m, adding 2cm to the stadium record she set last year, and then sailed over 4.70m on her second attempt.
Jumping off her new 16-step approach, she had three attempts at her own British record and a world lead of 4.89m but fell short this time.
"I’ve said all along that I just want consistency in my competitions, so to jump a 4.70m is really pleasing," she said. "In my mind I’ve wanted to do 4.70s and 4.75s every time I go out.
"Of course I would have loved to have broken the record right at the end there, but I'm just looking forward to Birmingham next weekend and the World Indoor Championships. I'm saving my big jump for then."
There was no big jump for Robbie Grabarz either as the world number three was beaten by Samson Oni in the men's High Jump. Grabarz, who's cleared 2.34m this year, could only manage 2.23m while Oni leapt clear at 2.26m.
Ennis wasn't the only athlete in great form over the hurdles. Nineteen-year-old Andy Pozzi took the men's title in 7.62, matching his best after running just a hundredth slower in the semi-finals.
Pozzi is coached by Malcolm Arnold and looked a class act here as he won by a full tenth from Gianni Frankis.
Joe Thomas was also a class apart as he bounced away from the field to break his own stadium record defending his 800m title. Thomas led from the gun and pulled away over the last 200m to win by more than two seconds in 1:47.26, shaving 0.03s from his lifetime best.
This event also featured a European veterans' best for Tony Whiteman. The 40-year-old was a European indoor 1500m silver medallist back in 1996. He ran 1:51.97 in the heats on Saturday but opted out of the final.
Whiteman says he wants to run a four-minute mile later this year, a feat only Irish legend Eamonn Coghlan has ever achieved at that age. (Coghlan ran 3:58.15 indoors back in 1994.)
Jenny Meadows was expected to go for her seventh UK title in the women's 800m, but the reigning world indoor silver medallist is resting an Achilles niggle ahead of the Aviva Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham next Saturday. She still aims to race in Istanbul.
In her absence, Marilyn Okoro made a brave bid for the qualifying time of 2:03.50. Adopting her usual front-running tactics, she flew through 200m in 28.51 and half way at 58.21. The rest was hard work for Okoro and she waded home in 2:04.01, her 30 metre lead reduced to less than 10 by the time she crossed the line.
Shana Cox produced her best form of the year to win the women's 400m in 52.38 ahead of Nadine Okyere as Nicola Sanders faded to third in the final straight. Cox will be aiming for a final place in Istanbul.
As will Nigel Levine. He successfully defended the men's title with an impressive piece of front-running. Levine clocked 46.58 to qualify. Michael Bingham was second in 47.07.
Helen Clitheroe was a no show for the women's 3000m in which Hannah England took full advantage of the slow pace to upstage her long distance rivals with an impressive sprint finish. The world 1500m silver medallist raced away from Katrina Wootton with a 31-second last lap to clock 9:06:04.
Mo Farah was another big name missing from the trials leaving Jonathan Mellor to win the men's 3000m in 7:58.36. It was his first sub-8 minute performance as the first six set PBs.
Lewis Moses came from behind and dipped ahead of James Brewer to win the men's 1500m in 3:45.58 after a slow start. By contrast Claire Gibson opened a huge margin to win the women's race. Shooting for the Istanbul qualifier of 4:14.00 she ran 4:17.39, a PB by nearly four seconds.
Nick Thomas of Jamaica won the men's Triple Jump with 16.18m while Kola Adedoyin was the best of the Britons and title winner with 15.93m. Phillips Idowu did not compete and is unlikely to do the World Indoors.
JJ Jegede, who comes from the same east London borough as Idowu, won the Long Jump with 7.96m, a big personal best and a stadium record but still short of the 8.15 he needs for World Indoor selection.
Steve Lewis lost in the men's Pole Vault to 20-year-old Andrew Sutcliffe, the 2010 World junior bronze medallist. Lewis, a world championships finalist in Daegu, could only clear 5.45m, some 30cm below his best. Sutcliffe improved his PB by 1cm with 5.55m.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF