European heptathlon champion starts her 2012 campaign with a solid performance in the shot
It was a low-key start for one of the world’s highest-profile athletes in her biggest season to date, but it was an encouraging one nonetheless.
Competing on home soil in Sheffield, European heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis won the shot at the Northern Indoor Championships with a putt of 13.95m. Despite being 72cm shy of the personal best she set at the World Championships in Daegu last year, it was just 16cm shorter than her best-ever seasonal debut throw from 2011.
All in all, the former world champion was pleased with her performance and is looking forward to opening her season in earnest at the Indoor City Challenge on February 4.
There were some good performances on the track at the Northern Championships too. Veteran Olympian Anthony Whiteman won the 800m with a UK M40 indoor record, clocking 1:52.58 – just 0.14 away from the European M40 indoor best.
At the other end of the age scale, Kirsten McAslan went to No.5 on the UK all-time junior indoor 400m list with her winning performance of 54.35.
A week after setting a PB of 2.29m and narrowly missing at 2.31m, Robbie Grabarz enjoyed another high jump victory at the Midland Counties Open in Birmingham. The 24-year-ould found 2.24m enough to win on this occasion.
On the track, European under-23 bronze medallist Andrew Robertson got his season off to a good start with a PB-equalling 6.68 in the 60m. The women’s equivalent was won by Laura Turner in 7.41.
Elsewhere in the UK, Sally Peake set a Welsh indoor pole vault record of 4.33m at Vault Manchester, while over in France UK record-holder Holly Bleasdale won in Aubiere with 4.52m with training partner and UK junior record-holder Katie Byres finishing third (4.33m).
On the country, Frank Tickner and Lauren Howarth came out on top at the McCain Cross Challenge in Cardiff. Tickner covered the 10.1km course in 32:10, holding off a strong challenge from Jonny Hay, who put in another good showing in second.
Howarth was a clear winner of the women’s 6.8km race, while European Cross under-23 silver medallist Naomi Taschimowitz was a distant fourth. Harvey Dixon and Annabel Gummow were the junior winners.
There were several strong performances internationally this weekend, and some of the early-season world-leading marks were of a high quality. Leading the way was German pole vaulter Silke Spiegelburg, who set a national record of 4.77m. It bettered her own indoor mark by one centimetre and ranks her at seventh on the world indoor all-time list.
European 200m bronze medallist Aleksandra Fedoriva enjoyed a breakthrough over 300m, perhaps signalling a move up in distance to the 400m. Competing at the Moscow Cup, the Russian clocked 36.54 to go to 13th on the world indoor all-time list.
Over in the United States,the biggest talking point was the hotly-contested US Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston. Ryan Hall, who last year clocked the fastest ever marathon by an American, was the big favourite to win and he looked on course to do so for the majority of the race.
But over the final few miles 2004 Olympic silver medallist Meb Keflezighi showed he was still a force and came back strong to steal the victory with a personal best of 2:09:08. Hall crossed the line 22 seconds behind, while Abdi Abdirahman finished third in 2:09:47 to take the final spot on the Olympic team.
Dathan Ritzenhein, who is returning to action after a long injury spell, was gutted to finish fourth – just eight seconds behind Abdirahman – and miss out on making the Olympic team. His 2:09:55 personal best was little consolation, but he can seek some solace in the fact that he will have a good chance of qualifying in one of the distance events on the track.
The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. Competing in only her second ever marathon, the American 10,000m record-holder smashed her PB by more than three minutes to win in 2:25:38. Long-time leader Desiree Davila ran a strong race to hold on to second in 2:25:55, while Kara Goucher rounded out what looks set to be a strong Olympic marathon team, taking third in 2:26:06.
2004 Olympic bronze medallist and American record-holder Deena Kastor ran her fastest marathon for two years – 2:30:40 – but it was only good enough for sixth behind Amy Hastings (2:27:17) and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (2:29:45).
On the US indoor circuit, Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast smashed her own 60m national record in Houston with a world-leading 7.09. Relative unknown Ryan Mulis also made big inroads over the short sprint with a world-leading 6.59 in Flagstaff.
Elsewhere, US indoor champion Ryan Whiting threw the shot 21.29m in Philadelphia, and two-time world long jump champion Brittney Reese got her season off to a solid start with 6.62m in Alabama.
Outdoors and on the other side of the world, IAAF world female athlete of the year Sally Pearson opened her year in Brisbane with a 100m victory in 11.25 – easily her fastest ever season debut.