After nearly two years away from the track, Jessica Ennis-Hill (coach: Toni Minichiello) makes her long awaited return to action at the Great CityGames on Saturday in Manchester.
The Olympic heptathlon champion last competed at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games in 2013 before giving birth to her son Reggie and will line-up this weekend in the 100m hurdles against a British field in the form of British record holder Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider) and European Indoor medallists Lucy Hatton (Jerzy Maciukiewicz) and Serita Solomon (Michelle Bovell). While excited to make her comeback, the Sheffield star is well aware of the challenges that face her in 2015.
Ennis-Hill said: “I do feel a little bit like ‘what am I doing?’ but it’s going to be a really fast race, I’m coming back into a really good field. It’s a good environment with a nice fast track and hopefully the weather will be OK. So I feel that I’ve just got to get back into it and see where I am and have a benchmark for something I can work on throughout the season.
“I don’t feel as much pressure because I feel that I’ve had my amazing year of being the poster girl and achieving essentially my dreams. Now obviously Kat’s here and she’s doing so well, I just want to get back into competing and give myself a really fair go of having a child and coming back and trying to be successful. I don’t want to look at this time and think ‘why didn’t I give it a proper go’. I’m happy to keep my head down and focus on what I want to achieve.”
Fellow heptathlete and European Indoor pentathlon gold medallist Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Mike Holmes) lines up in the less conventional 200m hurdles, where she will go head-to-head with European 400m hurdles champion Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) and Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin), who stormed to victory in the event last year.
“It’s (the Great CityGames) a bit of fun. It’s an event where the 100m hurdles for me is too short. I always have to chop down my strides because I’m too tall for them whereas with the 200m hurdles I can just stride out and do seven strides between the hurdles,” admitted the 22 year old.
“It’s going to be really stiff competition, especially with Meghan Beesley. I remember she smashed it last year and got the world best performance so it’s going to be tough, especially with Eilidh (Child) there too. So I’m against specialists and it’s not an event I’ve ever done.”
Greg Rutherford (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) jumped 8.02m for victory last year in the long jump at the Great CityGames and is focused on achieving the same result in what promises to be another spectacular event on Deansgate.
The Olympic, European and Commonwealth champion said: “It’s the first competition of the year other than the one indoor race I did which was very unexpected so we’ll see how this goes. I’ve just got back from a long training trip which went fantastically well, probably the best training trip I’ve ever had, so I’ve come back really excited.
“For me it’s about going out there, sorting out that run up and making sure everything is on point and sticking out a decent distance. Obviously I still want to win and I’ll do what I need to do to come out there and take the win but it will be tough, we’ve got guys out there who are good well established long jumpers so it won’t be an easy competition.”
In the men’s 100m, Richard Kilty (Linford Christie) takes on GB & NI teammate Chijindu Ujah (Tawiah-Dodoo), the evergreen Kim Collins and Mike Rodgers, who was a part of the USA team that won World Relays gold in the Bahamas last week.
“I’m just taking it as it comes. I was in Florida for four weeks and tore my hamstring coming into the World Relays. In terms of preparation I still feel a lot fitter and stronger than I was this time last year and with the injury I stayed in the gym and did a lot of fitness work so I’m still fit and strong.
“Tomorrow the main thing for me is to be competitive and use it as an indicator of where I am to set a bit of a bench mark for the rest of the season. I compete against those guys all the time and I think we’ve all beaten each other on numerous different occasions over the years so it will be interesting to see how it goes and who’s in form early in the season. The main thing is getting ready for August so tomorrow I’ll go out and have fun and see where I am.”
On Sunday, some of the world’s best athletes will line up for the Great Manchester Run, with Jo Pavey (Gavin Pavey) making her first competitive race since her memorable victory at the European Championships in Zurich last summer.
The 41 year old became the oldest female European champion and will now go up against a formidable line up in the 10k on the streets of Manchester. Among those to face the Exeter athlete is Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelana, double World marathon champion Edna Kiplagat and Gemma Steel (John Nuttall), a second place finisher at the event last year.
In the men’s field, the legendary Haille Gebrselassie joins a strong African contingent containing London 2012 marathon bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang, World 10,000m silver medallist Ibrahim Jelian and 13-time global medallist Bernard Lagat. The British charge will be led by Ross Millington (Steve Vernon) and Andrew Butchard (Derek Easton).
Also taking on the course is some of Britain’s best wheelchair racers including six-time Paralympic gold medallist David Weir (Jenny Archer), London 2012 marathon silver medallist Shelly Woods (Archer) and double European medallist Jade Jones (Ian Thompson/Tanni Grey-Thompson)
For more information, please visit: https://www.greatrun.org/ (Great Manchester Run) https://www.greatcitygames.org/ (Great CityGames)
The Great CityGames Manchester will be held on Saturday 9 May in Manchester city centre and will be shown live on BBC One and BBC One HD from 13:00 – 15:00. The event is part of a weekend-long celebration of sport in the city which includes Europe’s biggest 10K event, the Great Manchester Run on Sunday 10 May.