Secrets of the golden girl's success
On a balmy summer's night in Barcelona, Britain's Jessica Ennis stormed to European heptathlon gold with a stunning series of performances in the Estadio Olympico.
With the world title already to her name after her golden display in Berlin a year ago, Ennis has confirmed her place as the preeminent heptathlete on the planet. But what are the factors that have led to her domination, and what sets her apart from her rivals?
"She loves competing and has a steely determination," explains 1998 European champion Denise Lewis, whose British record Ennis came within eight points of on Saturday. "She relishes the sort of battle she had here in Spain.
"With this sport, there has to be a love of driving yourself forward and pushing your personal boundaries, exceeding what you think is possible - that's the beauty and secret of heptathlon. In every single event you're trying to deliver your maximum, and Jess absolutely relishes that.
"For a 24-year-old, she has rock-solid mental strength. Over the two days of competition, you have to keep this consistent feeling of patience and focus. You have to stay in the now. I know that's a phrase we use a lot, but it's so true in heptathlon.
"The start of the second day is a difficult time - you have to convince yourself that you feel fresh. In long jump you need both the speed down the runway and accuracy on the board, and those are hard, hard combinations to find when you're tired. Her mental fortitude comes through at times like that."
Ennis produced a personal best of 46.71m in the javelin early on Saturday evening, just as she was coming under serious pressure from Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska. It was the culmination of hundreds of tough training sessions with former world bronze medallist Mick Hill in Leeds.
"The beauty with Jess is that she doesn't have a major howler of an event," says Lewis, Olympic champion in 2000. "At worst they're a work in progress.
"I remember with Eunice Barber, when she used to come into the shot put after two very strong events, her whole demeanour and body language used to alter because she just wasn't looking forward to it. She used to barely do a warm-up, because she didn't want anyone to see how bad she was as a thrower.
"As a competitor you feed off that. I used to think, I'm going to nail you in this event, because I can see that you're just not up to it. Jess will never be in that situation."
At Ennis's side on the warm-up track and in constant communication from the stands was her coach Toni Minichiello. The relationship between the two, both in training at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and at major championships, is fundamental to her success,
"There has to be complete implicit trust between coach and athlete. At any championships, if you don't trust the information you're getting, there will be seeds of doubt in your mind.
"Toni has seen the changes in Jess, from the little girl he used to coach to a mature woman. She understands her own mind and what she wants from the sport, and although he is naturally very protective of her, he gives her room to grow."
It was a world-class field at the Europeans. Of the best heptathles of the current era, only Hyleas Fountain of the USA was not in Barcelona.
"Jess understands the strengths and weaknesses of her competitors, and more importantly she understands what she has to do to beat them," says Lewis.
"She's still learning her trade and building every year. This year she's been working on her throws and long jumping in particular, and at the end of the season she'll go away and assess her goals for next year. Even without the British record this year or European record next year, she is gearing towards something special. She knows she has the tools in her armoury, and that's what will drive her forward."
With 250 metres to go in the 800m, Dobrynska surged past Ennis. Had she held a gap of 1.2 seconds, she would have stolen gold. But Ennis fought back immediately and kicked again off the top bend to stamp out the danger.
"She displays real courage when up against it," says Lewis. "It was the same when she was down in the shot put - it was particularly hard for her not to panic when she saw Dobrynska open up with a 15.88m throw. That could have really unnerved her.
"She was disappointed with her second round throw, and I worried that she would sink, that her confidence would drop - her body language was distressed. But she regained her composure, thought about what she had to do technically and competitively and came up with over 14m."
"She also learns a lot from all her competitions. I think we all underestimated her opponents coming into this, and we probably overestimated the ease with which she'd come through the competition. She had to fight.
"You don't choose to do heptathlon unless you've got something special about you, and Jess is the classic example of that."
Ennis's gold appeared difficult to surpass. But on another splendid night for British athletics, Mo Farah's wonderful front-running display matched it perfectly.
Four years ago Spain's Jesus Espana out-sprinted Farah to 5,000m gold. We wondered if there would be anything left in the Briton's locker after his 10,000m triumph four days ago. As one wag remarked in the build-up, it's not easy taking on both a deity and a country.
Oh us of little faith. Farah was imperious, snatching the initiative with three laps to go and never looking like letting go, even when Espana and the partisan crowd were piling the pressure on his lean shoulders coming off the top bend.
In the long illustrious history of British distance running, no man has ever achieved the 5-10 double at a Europeans. Farah was in tears as he crossed the line. In the BBC commentary box, Paula Radcliffe - European 10,000m champion herself eight years ago - almost matched him tear for tear.
The gold rush didn't end there. Dai Greene had come into the 400m hurdles final as hot favourite for gold, and he made the event they call 'the man-killer' look as easy as a stroll in the park.
In the same stadium that Kris Akabusi set the British record 18 years ago, Greene's personal best of 48.12 secs put him joint second on the all-time British list with the legendary David Hemery. On his heels, making it a happy one-two for Wales and coach Malcolm Arnold, Rhys Williams also knocked a large chunk of his PB. It's become something of a British habit this week.
"It was like nothing I have ever experienced it before," said Greene afterwards, with wonderment in his eyes. "I knew I was in PB shape but it's a different thing delivering on the day. There's no better feeling - I couldn't hold back the emotions as I crossed the line."
Greene's triumph means it is now six golds for Britain at these championships, enough to put them second in the medal table. Add in Michael Rimmer's battling silver and the team have a total of 16 medals overall, exceeding head coach Charles van Commenee's pre-championship target with the final day still to come.
The Dutchman is not known as an excitable sort. This weekend, that may be about to change.