Ennis gets athletics off to flying start

Luke Phillips
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Ennis timed a scorching personal best of 12.54sec

Britain's Jessica Ennis competes in the women's heptathlon 100m hurdles heats at the athletics event during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Ennis, a poster girl for the London Olympics, clocked the fastest ever time for a heptathlete in the 100m hurdles on the opening day of athletics at the Games

British poster-girl Jessica Ennis made a flying start to the heptathlon Friday as the London Games athletics programme got under way in front of a vocal, 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium crowd.

Ennis timed a new personal best by 0.25sec and new British record of 12.54sec, the fastest ever for a heptathlon hurdles, in brilliant sunshine at east London's Olympic Park.

"I'm still in shock from the hurdles, to be honest," Ennis said. "I can't believe I ran that time. It was a great start."

"I just felt ready. I'd done all the hard work in the training, and hurdles has been going well so I knew I was in shape to run a good time but I didn't quite think I'd run that quick."

To put Ennis' time into perspective, it matched American Dawn Harper's winning time in the individual 100m hurdles at the Beijing Games in 2008.

It was the perfect start in the gruelling seven-discipline event for former world champion Ennis, who missed the Beijing Olympics through injury and is under pressure to perform from an expectant public.

She went on to nail 1.86m in the high jump to leave her top on 2,249 points after the first two events, with the shot put and 200m to come later in the day.

"I'd love to have got another high (personal best) out of the high jump but not too bad so good start to the day," Ennis said, praising the highly-charged crowd.

"Amazing! It's so loud," she said. "When you step up to jump or get on your blocks they just really get behind you."

Defending Olympic champion Natallia Dobrynska of Ukraine was in 12th position, 193 points off Ennis, with Russian world champion Tatyana Chernova in 16th a further 25 points adrift.

The British tinge to the morning session got another boost when Welsh 400m hurdles world champion Dai Greene and defending Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu both safely negotiated their qualifying rounds.

Greene will be joined in the semi-finals by favourite Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, and Americans Kerron Clement and Angelo Taylor, who was the gold medallist at both the 2000 and 2008 Olympics.

"It's amazing to think I got a cheer from just walking in. I've never had that before," Greene said of the electric atmosphere in the stadium.

Taylor, 33, said he was confident he could achieve something that legendary compatriot and two-time champion Ed Moses failed to do, and win a third Olympic gold medal in the 400m hurdles.

"Most definitely I can win a third gold medal," said Taylor. "That's why I'm here. I started planning for this as soon as I crossed the line in Beijing."

All the favourites safely negotiated qualifying in the men's shot put ahead of the final in Friday evening's session.

World champion David Storl of Germany, Poland's defending Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski and the US trio of Reese Hoffa, Ryan Whiting and Christian Cantwell all went through.

"I'm feeling good. I threw the qualifying distance on my first throw," said Storl.

Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), also had words of praise for the crowd.

"It was wonderful to arrive at the Olympic Games this morning and see a totally packed stadium for the first session of athletics," Diack said.

"I do not remember the last time this happened and it shows the great affection Britain has for our sport."

Apart from the shot put, there is just one other final on Friday, the women's 10,000m.