Athletics: Ennis delights crowd with early lead
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Jessica Ennis had a full house at the Olympic Stadium on its feet on Friday morning when she ran the fastest heptathlon 100 meters hurdles of all time on the first day of athletics at the London Games.
The former world champion followed up with a solid 1.86 meters in the high jump to top the standings after two events with 2,249 points, 25 ahead of Beijing silver medalist Hyleas Fountain of the U.S.
Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska was 12th on 2,056 and world gold medalist Tatyana Chernova equal 16th on 2,031 although the Russian has a much stronger second day.
British teenager Katarina Johnson-Thompson was a surprise third on 2,146.
Running in the fifth and final heat of the hurdles, the first of seven events in the heptathlon, Ennis stormed down the track towards the Olympic cauldron, which has been re-sited at the end of home straight.
Soaring across the hurdles in bright sunshine with the full-throated roar of the 80,000 crowd driving her on, the 26-year-old crossed the line in 12.54 seconds, the same time Dawn Harper ran to win 100 meters hurdles gold at the Beijing Olympics.
"I still can't believe I ran that time to be honest. Stepping into the stadium, the crowd just really lifted me," UK Athletics tweeted Ennis as saying.
Canada's Jessica Zelinka was second behind Ennis in 12.65 and Fountain third in 12.70.
Dobrynska won her heat convincingly in 13.57 seconds, while Chernova, finished last in Ennis's heat in 13.48.
With music pumping out of the stadium speakers and an enthusiastic crowd, the high jump competition had a party atmosphere despite a heavy downpour that briefly interrupted proceedings.
Chernova was the first of the big three to go out of the high jump, knocking the bar off on her third and final attempt at 1.83 to the distinctive beat of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' despite generous crowd support. Dobrynska cleared 1.83 before failing at 1.86.
Ennis went on to clear that height on her third attempt after brushing the bar off with her bottom on her previous go.
The bar fell after she had hit the crash mat which cut the crowd's cheer short. A groan resounded around the stadium and the relief was evident on Ennis's face when she finally jumped the height.
Lithuanian Austra Skujyte won the high jump with a personal best of 1.92 ahead of Johnson-Thompson, who has fast become a crowd favorite.
The 19-year-old had appeared overwhelmed before the start of the hurdles, mouthing the words "oh wow" at the noise when her name was announced to the stadium but by the high jump she had got to grips with the occasion, finishing with a personal best of 1.89 meters.
The heptathlon continues with the shot put and 200 meters on Friday before the long jump, javelin and 800m on Saturday.
(Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ed Osmond)
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