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Combined Events International in ‘Jessica’s workshop’

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30 January 2008


Jessica Ennis’s Sheffield ‘workshop’ will become a showcase for 32 more of Europe’s most versatile and ambitious athletes at the weekend.


The EIS Sheffield, where the world heptathlon No.4 is doing most of her training as she prepares to bid for a medal at the Beijing Olympics, is the venue for a combined events international in which the Norwich Union Great Britain and Northern Ireland team will face the Czech Republic, France and Spain.


The home team has been selected largely on the form shown at the recent England Athletics Combined Events Championships at the same venue.


So the men’s quartet is headed by England Champion Ed Dunford (Birchfield Harriers) and silver medallist Kevin Sempers (Trafford), who were separated by only one point after a fabulous battle for domestic gold. They will be joined by Louis Evling-Jones (Belgrave Harriers), who won the bronze medal at the championships, and Under 23 Oliver McNeillis (Birchfield Harriers).


All four are in the form of their lives, having achieved lifetime bests in the indoor heptathlon already this winter: 23-year-old Dunford 5722 points as he prepares to bid for the Beijing Olympics decathlon A-standard early in the summer; 22-year-old Sempers 5721 in the closest ever England Athletics Championships; 24-year-old Evling-Jones 5663 and 20-year-old McNeillis 5092 as he makes the transition to senior competition. Continuing their improvements, Sempers pole vaulted a PB of 4.70m at the Saucony Loughborough Open a fortnight ago and Dunford improved his 60m hurdles PB to 7.86 seconds at the Indoor City Challenge semi-final at Manchester last weekend.


They will face skilled competition, not least from the Czech quartet, who have the daunting task of following the icons who occupy the top two places in the world all-time decathlon rankings, Roman Sebrle and Tomas Dvorak. Of the Sheffield-bound team, Josef Karas (aged 29) has a heptathlon best of 5755, Stanislav Sajdok (24) a best of 5354, David Sazima (20) 5419 and Tomas Nesvera (19) 5259.


France, who won last year’s match when it was staged in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, field Franck Logel (23) 5706, Nadir el Fassi (24) 5635, Julien Choffart (29) 5600 and Gael Querin (19) 5539.


Spain field a vastly experienced team: Alvaro Contreras (26), who achieved a lifetime best of 5773 points in winning the individual title last year; Augustin Felix (28), who has a best of 5784; Victor Ruiz (33), whose best is 5589; and Ismael Gonzalez (23), whose best is 5578.


The men’s competition begins on Saturday (11am) with 60m sprints, long jump, shot and high jump. Sunday’s events will be 60m hurdles, pole vault and 1000m.


The women’s pentathlon on Sunday (from 10.30am) will feature last year’s individual winner, 21-year-old Denisa Scerbova, who has a best of 4392 points, at the head of a strong Czech team that looks determined to repeat last year’s victory. Scerbova is supported by Eliska Klucinova (19), who has a best of 4059; Jana Koresova (26), whose best is 3977; and Nikol Ogrodnikova (17), whose best so far is 3936.


The Norwich Union GB&NI team features the new England Athletics Indoor Combined Events Champion, 26-year-old Kate Cowley (Havering Mayesbrook AC), who has a best of 4070 from 2004; silver medallist Catherine Holdsworth (Colchester Harriers), aged 21 with a best of 4021; Grace Clements (Dartford Harriers) who established a new personal best of 3876 at the Championships, and Gemma Weetman (Oswestry Olympians), who has a best score of 3903 from last year and won the bronze medal at the recent Championships with 3880.


France field Alexandra Barlet (30), who has a best of 4125; Gabriela Kouassi (28), whose best is 4141; 21-year-old Marisa De Aniceto, whose best is 3941; and Latifa Maanane (25), whose best is 3918.


Spain are represented by Ana Capdevila (26), who has a best of 4054; Cristina Barcena (25), whose best is 3974; Laura Gines (21), whose best is 3809; and Cristina Teizeira (29), whose best is 3658.


And Ennis does not mind being temporarily ‘homeless’. She plans to train at Leeds on Saturday and outdoors at Sheffield’s Don Valley on Sunday before she pops into the EIS weights room for her final training session of her weekend.