Former Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards has urged heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill to contest next month’s World Championships in Beijing, but is less convinced by the merits of much-scrutinised Mo Farah defending his twin titles.
Ennis-Hill is to judge her medal-winning potential and decide whether to go to the World Championships after dissecting her performance at this weekend’s Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium, where she will feature in the 100m hurdles, long jump and 200m.
The 29-year-old has barely competed since winning gold at London 2012. An achilles injury curtailed her 2013 campaign, while she missed the whole of last season after giving birth.
Although Edwards doubts that Ennis-Hill will be crowned world champion in China, he does believe the biennial meeting could prove significant in the Sheffield-born athlete’s bid to become the first British woman to retain an Olympic crown.
“If she is fit and healthy, I do not think going to the World Championships is a bad idea. It’s all about building for the Olympic Games,” Edwards told City A.M.
“Nobody expects her to go Beijing and become world champion. We know she is still undergoing rehab after long-term injury and having a baby, with all the changes that motherhood brings.
“She can go to Beijing with a free hand to just continue her rehabilitation. If she is fit and healthy, I’d say go to Beijing, get back into the major championship mindset and use it as a stepping stone to the Olympic title.”
Read more: Athletes defend Farah over tests
Farah’s quest to defend the 5,000m and 10,000m titles he won at the World Championships in Moscow two years ago is set to overlap with the ongoing investigations into his American coach, Alberto Salazar.
UK Anti-Doping, the United States Anti-Doping Agency and UK Athletics are all conducting separate inquiries into Salazar, who is alleged to have provided banned substances to Farah’s training partner, Galen Rupp. Salazar and Rupp have refuted the claims.
Farah has vehemently denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs and made an eye-catching return to the track by winning the 5,000m at Lausanne earlier this month, following a six-week absence as the Salazar storm engulfed athletics.
But despite a blistering pace, Farah was upstaged by Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop in his most recent outing in Monaco last week and was forced to settle for a fourth-placed 1,500m finish.
It was the first time in four years that Farah had raced and failed to appear on the podium, while his next assignment is the 3,000m at tomorrow’s Anniversary Games.
Farah is only the second long-distance runner in history to win double gold at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships, although Edwards believes skipping next month’s event altogether may have long-term benefits for the 32-year-old.
“Mo has clearly been very upset and troubled by what has happened as a result of his association with Salazar and the questions that people have asked about where his success has come from,” added Edwards, speaking before Farah raced in Monaco.
“Clearly, it has had a massive impact on him and that may well have a negative impact on his racing. We will see further down the line.
“If he has a couple of bad races it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he decides not to compete in Beijing, not to defend his world titles, and just get the whole Salazar thing behind him, put it to bed, start again.
“Rio is what matters and defending his Olympic titles. If it seems that his performance level is dropping off – and it is hard to think that perhaps it won’t – then he might choose to miss the World Championships.”
The nation’s arsenal of promising sprinters was swelled last month when Anguilla’s Zharnel Hughes was cleared to represent Great Britain. Such a policy drew condemnation from some circles as the move revived the “plastic Brit” debate, an argument which Edwards refuses to give credence.
“My feeling is very straight-forward: there are rules, very strict rules, about which country you can run for,” explained Edwards. “As long as that criteria is met and it has been sanctioned by the international governing body then it is fine. I think otherwise it becomes very personal, very emotive and a bit unedifying. If they qualify, that’s fine by me.”