World Athletics day one: Jessica Ennis-Hill begins Heptathlon bid
Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium hosts the 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships, which begin on Saturday with the men’s Marathon and 10000m contests opening and closing proceedings respectively.
Competing steadily throughout day one, and indeed the entire first weekend, in four of the seven disciplines which make up the Heptathlon, however, are British medal hopes Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
London Olympics golden girl Ennis-Hill has been a World Championships winner before back in 2009, but competes on a similarly elite athletics stage for the first time since the birth of her son. Coral make Ennis-Hill 11/4 to be best multi-disciplined woman, behind teammate Johnson-Thompson (5/2) and firm Gold medal favourite Brianne Theisen-Eatson (5/4).
On day one of the Heptathlon, these leading ladies and others start with the sprint hurdles over 100m, then take to the field for the high jump and shot put before returning to the track for 200m on the flat.
While you can’t win Gold until Sunday, you can certainly lose it. Ennis-Hill needs to keep in touch with the more fancied and fellow double-barrelled duo Johnson-Thompson and Theisen-Eaton. She has experience on her side and, unlike her fellow Brit and the Canadian, Ennis-Hill knows what it takes to win.
Mo Farah, another home hero from 2012, is odds-on at 2/5 to defend his world 10000m title against a strong African contingent and training partner Galen Rupp (14/1 for Gold), who has also seen his season mired in the controversy surrounding coach Alberto Salazar and doping allegations.
World record holders past and present Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich and Dennis Kipruto Kimetto go head-to-head in the men’s Marathon. Both in their prime at 33 and 31 respectively, this Kenyan couple are the main contenders for Gold.
Kimetto may have surpassed compatriot Kipsang when it comes to time, but is 5/2 to make that tell by taking top spot on the rostrum. A Bronze medallist back at London 2012, Kipsang starts as a strong 6/4 favourite to better his medal colour by two places.
The closest thing to threatening Kenyan dominance over 26 miles plus of punishment comes in the form of Ugandan runner Stephen Kiprotich at 7/1, but he may need to shave a couple of seconds off his personal best in Beijing to be able to hang with Kimetto and Kipsang.
Heats for the men’s 100m, featuring world record holder and reigning Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt, 800m, 400m hurdles and 3000m steeplechase all take place on day one. Also on the track will be the women going through their preliminary rounds over 1500m.
In the field, qualification for the men’s hammer and pole vault is joined by the ladies’ triple jump, and all on the same day some shot putting both to reach the final and decide medals.
Just three women have gone out over 20m this season, including odds-on 1/2 competition favourite Christina Schwanitz, who has set a new personal best of 20m 77cm. Her previous top mark came at the last World Athetics Championships in Daegu, but was only good enough for Silver.
Host country China will be getting behind Lijiao Gong (13/8 for Gold), three times a Bronze medallist at World and Olympic level, and home advantage may be the extra motivation she needs. America’s Michelle Carter is the best of the rest at 12/1, but some way behind the leading pair on this season’s form.
Coral’s top tip: Be patriotic and back Ennis-Hill to have world Heptathlon Gold round her neck again at 11/4.