By Nilesh Patel
- London 2012’s Super Saturday champions begin their title defence
- Jessica Ennis-Hill leads heptathlon, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson in fourth
- Greg Rutherford secures place in long jump final
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Day one of track and field began with Team GB having strong starts to their events at the Olympic Stadium.
The first day of athletics at Rio 2016 began with the heptathlon, with Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson hoping they can finish on the podium following great starts in the first events of the contest.
Despite this potentially being her last Olympic Games, Ennis-Hill had the confidence of being favourite to retain her first place position after winning the heptathlon in the Beijing World Championship’s last year – just two years after giving birth. However, the World and Olympic champion will face stiff competition from Johnson-Thompson after she aims to make up for failing to make the top-20 in last year’s championships.
Ennis-Hill kick-started her Olympic title defence in great form finishing with the fastest time in the 100m hurdles heat. At a time of 12.84s, she gave herself the early edge. Her form continued into the high-jump, reaching a season’s best of 1.89m.
In what was a thrilling competition Thompson-Johnson outlasted her compatriot, being one of the last two women standing in the high-jump. She jumped an astounding 1.98m to create a new British record and storm into first position of the heptathlon. Having ran 13.48s in the hurdles her points tally for the morning session sat at 2,264.
In the evening session, shot-put was the next obstacle facing the heptathletes. Ennis-Hill found herself in second position after a disappointing series of throws, the highest being 13.86m. For Johnson-Thompson the shot-put was less kind, her biggest throw was just 11.68m. The result moved her down to sixth position.
The final event of the evening was the 200m, which was a favoured event for both Brits. Johnson-Thompson came out on top with the fastest time of 23.26s. Ennis-Hill was second fastest running in 23.49s, which was enough for her cement the gold position going into the second day. For Johnson-Thompson, her efforts moved her up to fourth.
Greg Rutherford made his first appearance at the Olympic Stadium as he looked to defend his title in the long jump. The ‘Super Saturday’ champion secured his place in the long-jump final, with a jump of 7.90m. The current Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth champion will next compete on Sunday.
In the women’s 10,000m Jo Pavey, although finishing 15th, participated in what was a record-smashing race. The race was won by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana who broke the record by 14 seconds, which had stood for over 20 years.
Even though Pavey failed to make the podium, the 42 year-old was an inspiration to all runners after participating in her fifth Olympic games – a record for a British track athlete.
Britain’s Jess Andrews finished one place behind Pavey in a PB of 31:35.92, while Beth Potter finished 34th.
In the women’s 1500m, podium candidate Laura Muir eased into the semi-finals where she will be accompanied by Laura Weightman as they hope to progress into the final.
In the men’s 800m Britain’s Michael Rimmer sought to make his first final. In his third Olympics Games, Rimmer qualified well from a heat containing reigning champion and world record holder David Rudisha. Rimmer will move on into the semi-final but there was disappointment for his team-mate Elliot Giles, who finished seventh in his heat.
A familiar name and face in Martyn Rooney was distraught with his 45.60s run, which was not enough for him to qualify for the 400m semi-finals. This meant Matthew Hudson-Smith will be the only Brit for us to cheer on in the 400m, as he qualified comfortably.
Finally in the hammer throw, medal prospect – Sophie Hitchon – scraped in to the final with a throw of 70.3metres.
Day 2 of the Athletics programme at Rio 2016 starts at 1:30pm BST.
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