Thanks to modern technology (which I don’t pretend to understand) I was able to watch Jennifer Ennis’s regal progress on the first day of her golden Heptathlon and then on my laptop, courtesy the New York Road Runners website, Paula Radcliffe looking equally majestic winning the New York City Half Marathon.
Whether this run will persuade her to run the marathon in Berlin remains to be seen but the manner of her winning over a classy field that included the leader of the US road running circuit Mamitu Dasku of Ethiopia, her old rival Catherine Ndereba of Kenya and Olympic marathon bronze medallist Deena Kastor (USA) would indicate that she is, to put it at its mildest, in very good shape.
The marathon world record holder broke away after eight miles and in hot and humid conditions pulled away from a pack that never chased her, finishing almost a minute and a half ahead of Dasku and two minutes ahead of Ndereba.
Paula said that she knew her approach to test her fitness was “unorthodox”; Britain’s chief coach Charles van Commenee called it “extreme”. But whichever way you look at it in the end the gal done good.
In a song from the musical South Pacific the female lead is described as having every inch of her “packed with dynamite”. The same could be said for the new world Heptathlon champion Jennifer Ennis, only 5’4” (1.62 metres) tall but, in Berlin, high jumped 1.92 metres (and has cleared 1.95m) which indicates quite an extraordinary power-to-weight ratio. If the IAAF website is still correct Ennis has overtaken the Greek high jumper Niko Bakoyanni by one centimetre in clearing a bar 33 centimetres over her own head.
The event was all over almost after the opening discipline and though the shot put has been billed as a hiccup her winning margin of 238 points is the biggest since Carolina Kluft’s Olympic win in 2004. Compared with Kluft’s European record Ennis’s performances in Berlin exceeded the Swede in three of the eight events.
Van Commenee, after a turgid few weeks in which he feared picking up the phone in case it was to herald another withdrawal through injury, can now smile. The UK has more than a world champion it has someone who can spearhead the sport towards 2012.
Leaving aside Usain Bolt’s breaktaking new world 100 metres record the interesting man to me in that epic race was the bronze medallist Asafa Powell. Heavily criticised for “bottling” at previous attempts at global championships, panicking when challenged and tightening up, Powell looked a totally different man at the start emulating his fellow countryman with dubious antics to the camera.
Whether all sprinters will now emulate Bolt’s actions before races remains to be seen but they clearly do not suit Powell’s style but what I think has really helped him is Usain Bolt. By running that extraordinary world record in Beijing Bolt clearly showed his fellow Jamaican a superiority that for him, at least, is insurmountable. He’s lost the world record; the pressure is off so there was no ‘tying up’ in his bronze medal run in the German capital.
As for Dwain Chambers he showed a maturity and humbleness throughout that the European promoters would now do well to match. If he had breathed in at the finish he could have well gone under 10 seconds.
Remember the ballyhoo when it was announced some months ago that the great and the good of British endurance running past were to help Ian Stewart rise to the challenge of reviving this particular ailing section of our sport? As it turns out it was pure PR-speak.
When questioned on BBC television Brendan Foster and Steve Cram both admitted that the group that also includes Paula Radcliffe, Seb Coe and David Bedford, “hadn’t met yet.” Moreover Steve said that they hadn’t really got any brief. Clearly this is one of those ideas that seemed good at the time.
Leaving aside the question as to why endurance running should be singled out for special treatment when so many other events in British athletics are in equally bad shape one has to comment that all this was and is part of the puff that continually emanates from UK Athletics. The rose tinted spectacles with which they view the sport are certainly not curing their myopia.