at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Jessica Ennis, the darling of British athletics and poster girl for the London Games, closed in on heptathlon gold on Saturday, enjoying a 188-point lead over her nearest rival with just the 800m to run.
Ennis set personal bests in the 100m hurdles and 200m on Friday for 4,158 points and an overnight lead of 184 points on Lithuanian Austra Skujyte.
The 26-year-old Sheffield-born former world champion, bearing the weight of an expectant British public, jumped a best of 6.48m in the opening event of the long jump for a total of 5,159.
That increased her lead over Skujyte to 258pts, with Russian world champion Tatyana Chernova moving into third overall (4,869) with a leading 6.54m in the long jump.
In front of an 80,000-capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium, Ennis then managed a best of 47.49m in her weakest of the gruelling seven-discipline event, the javelin.
The result meant Skujyte, who threw 51.13m, cut Ennis' lead to 188pts.
But the Lithuanian's best time in the 800m is 7sec slower than Ennis, meaning the Briton was realistically sitting pretty with just two laps of the track to complete to tie up gold, after missing out on the Beijing Olympics through injury.
Ukraine's Lyudmyla Yosypenko moved into third on 5,701, at 270, with France's Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida in fourth (5,696).
Chernova dropped into sixth place (5,657) after a disappointing javelin, with Germany's Lili Schwarzkopf in fifth, 279pts adrift of Ennis, with the 800m promising to be a real fight for the lesser podium places.
Defending Olympic champion Natallia Dobrynska of Ukraine, who won the 2012 world indoor pentathlon title in a world record total just days before her husband and coach Dmytro Polyakov died, saw her medal hopes go up in smoke.
In 10th position on 3,835pts overnight, Dobrynska had a nightmare in the long jump, with two no jumps on her first two of three efforts.
She then botched her run-up for her third effort, recording only 3.70m to leave her languishing in 33rd, an unsurmontable 1,082pts off Ennis. The Ukrainian withdrew before the javelin.
Polish podium hope Karolina Tyminska also failed to register a mark in the long jump, and the fourth-placed finisher in the Daegu worlds was forced out. – AFP