GB Juniors returned home empty-handed from the 2004 IAAF World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy – the first time this had happened in the 11 editions of the competition.
Jessica Ennis (City of Sheffield AC) was eighth in the heptathlon in Grosseto with a personal best of 5542 points. She went on to win the European Junior title in 2005 and the Commonwealth Games bronze medal in 2006. And she flew into Debrecen from Szczecin in Poland, having spent the weekend compiling her second UK Under 23 record of the summer, 6399, to lead GB’s senior women to their first ever victory in the European Cup Combined Events Super League.
“Grosseto! I’d forgotten about that,” she smiled as she prepared to contest the 100m hurdles. “We were tagged ‘failures’ but it was just a step on the way.”
Her coach Toni Minichiello, chair of the UK Athletics Combined Events Management Group, said: “I think a lot of people wrote-off the team en bloc when they came home without medals. But most of the athletes thankfully kept faith in their own ability; indeed, the experience strengthened their determination to succeed. And they have responded to the loyalty of their coaches and the help that UKA has given them.”
“Like fine wine, it takes time to mature a good athlete. Sometimes we err by trying to rush our youngsters. All of the age group championships are part of the learning process towards Olympics and World Championships.”
Ennis has already learnt that the weekend’s heptathlon took too much out of her legs for her to double-up in the high jump as well as the hurdles in Debrecen. It would have meant her competing in high jump qualifying rounds on Thursday morning, hurdles first round and semi-finals on Friday, and then have barely 90 minutes between the two finals on Sunday.
She is coached at the University of Bath by Malcolm Arnold at the specific request of UK Athletics Performance Director Dave Collins, have been named the Team Captains by Team Leader Steve Rippon, UKA Senior Performance Coach for the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside and the North East.
Rippon explained: “ Jess is an inspirational example to not only the team here in Hungary but to the thousands of slightly younger athletes following them on the exciting road towards London 2012. Her successe is glowing proof of what hard work, natural ability, dedicated coaches and sensible assistance can achieve.
“Her ‘can do’ attitude is recognisable in many more of our athletes, too. There’s a zoological garden next door to the track here in Debrecen and we have brought some hungry young lions to the party.”
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Trevor Frecknall, Communications Officer
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