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ennis-hill leads olympic heptathlon after day one in rio

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13 August 2016

Team GB’s strong start to the Olympic Games athletics programme continued in the afternoon session in Rio de Janeiro, with Jessica Ennis-Hill (coach: Toni Minichiello) lying in first place and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Mike Holmes) in fourth after the first day of the heptathlon.

Johnson-Thompson led the way after setting a British high jump record earlier in the day with her teammate in hot pursuit in third place. After best throws of 11.68m and 13.86m respectively in the shot put, Ennis-Hill moved into second overall with Johnson-Thompson temporarily dropping to sixth.

Both athletes came back strongly in the 200m though, crossing the line first and second with times of 23.26 for Johnson-Thompson and 23.49 for Ennis-Hill to pick up good points in the fourth and final heptathlon event of the day. That leaves defending champion Ennis-Hill with a points total of 4057 and an overnight lead of 72, with Johnson-Thompson exactly 100 points behind.

Ennis-Hill reflected: “I think it’s always nice to be leading after the first day, but those girls have got big jumps in the long jump and they can all run good 800s it’ll be a challenging day tomorrow, another long day finishing at 11. I just want to put all the pieces together, go and rest up and come back tomorrow stronger.”

Johnson-Thompson said: “It’s heptathlon isn’t it – it’s highs and lows in all the events and I think it’s not been a day for lots of PBs lots of competitors have struggled. I’m so happy with my high jump – I’m a bit annoyed with myself for the other three events.”

Seven British athletes also progressed through qualifying rounds during the evening session on the first day of athletics action.

After fouls in the first two rounds, defending Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford (Dan Pfaff) was forced to rely on a third round jump to qualify for the final. A leap of 7.90m was enough to move him up to tenth place and secure a place in tomorrow’s final.

Rutherford said: “It was a funny one. The second one was a really good jump, I thought I was pleased with that, and I thought as I got out of the pit ‘a nice big distance’ and then I saw the red flag go up. It was more frustration than anything else. But equally going into the final round I definitely wasn’t as stressed as my family were at home. For me it’s one of these where you draw on all the experiences that you’ve had. I know 7.90m is not good but it was just a matter of making finals.”

British record holder Laura Muir (Andy Young) and Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) set the ball rolling as they both safely made it through the 1500m heats. Muir ran an impressive race to finish third in her heat in 4:06.53 while Weightman finished seventh but was the fastest of six fastest losers with a time of 4:08.37.

Muir said: “I just wanted to stay at the back at the start - let the race settle down a bit and keep an eye on the time. I knew we were going for a reasonable time so I didn’t panic too much, I just came through wanting to get that qualifying spot which I did.”

Weightman said: “It was a tough race, I think I ran a bit of a messy race as I got boxed and stuck in, but it has put me into the semi-final and it’s another day and another race tomorrow.”

In the men’s 400m, Matthew Hudson-Smith (Tony Hadley) judged his effort perfectly to cross the line in third place for automatic qualification with a time of 45.26. However there was bad news for Martyn Rooney (Rana Reider) who finished fifth in his heat with a time of 45.60 and narrowly missed out on a fastest loser position.

Hudson-Smith said: “It was good, definitely an experience. I think that was my first ever 400m in lane two. I thought I was close to Kirani, but I didn’t execute, but I got third and that’s all I wanted to qualify really.”

A dejected Rooney said: “I was far too slow through 200m and it was obvious, I didn’t want to kick round the bend too hard because then you waste all your energy, but I don’t know.  I just didn’t even feel like I was running that quick, I felt like I was running at a solid pace and I felt quite fresh when I finished, but 45.60 is awful.”

Two British women made it through the heats of the 100m. Desiree Henry (Reider) set the tone with a very impressive run to win the first heat in 11.08 and she was followed by Asha Philip (Steve Fudge), who qualified as a fastest loser with a time of 11.34 after finishing third in her heat.

Daryll Neita (Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) was unfortunate to miss out on a place in the semi-finals after finishing fourth in her heat. Her time of 11.41 was just two hundredths of a second outside the fastest loser positions.

In hammer qualifying, a second round throw of 70.37m placed Sophie Hitchon (Tore Gustafsson) in eleventh place. With the top 12 progressing, Hitchon ensured that she would contest the final on Monday.

She said afterwards: “I made it quite difficult for myself. I was quite nervous there at the end which is not where I wanted to be. But you know I made it through and now I can focus on the final.”

Earlier in the day Tom Bosworth (Andi Drake) produced a stunning performance to finish sixth in the 20km race walk. Bosworth took the lead early on and set the pace for much of the race before being caught and then rallying to set a new British record of 1:20:13.

He said: “I’m shock at what just happened. I just thought I will take it on. The pace was so easy; I thought people would just come with me.  I was just doing my own race and after 3 or 4k I just made my move.  I felt good and was comfortable with the pace I was going, but I knew I had the best in the world behind me and I knew they would catch me, but I just tried to hold on.  I dropped down to 9th at one point, but I thought screw this I’ve not led the race for this long to finish outside the top 8 and just went for it.”