Kelly Sotherton has defended Jessica Ennis over criticism of her weight and backed the Sheffield athlete to win heptathlon gold at this summer’s Olympics.
Ennis went into the Hypo meeting in Gotzis on Saturday to the backdrop of bizarre reports that a senior figure at UK Athletics had labelled her “fat”.
She answered any critics with a British record score of 6,906 points, 75 more than Denise Lewis’ previous mark and 83 in excess of her own personal best.
And Sotherton, looking ahead to the Games in London, told BBC Radio Five Live: “I think she will (get gold), it’s going to be tricky but I think she’s got every attribute to win gold.
“She looks like she’s coming good at just the right time, she got a personal best at the weekend and beat Denise Lewis’ British record.
“She’s such a strong personality and having that home crowd is only going to help her.”
On the claims over Ennis’ weight, Sotherton added: “She is bigger, but she’s not fat. She’s strong, she’s a much stronger-looking athlete, and I bet come the Olympics she will look amazing.
“In two months’ time, the stress and the worry and shaping up for the Olympics, she will be even smaller. She’s so tiny. I do think it’s a bit uncalled-for, the ‘fat’ jibes.”
Sotherton, Ennis’ predecessor as Britain’s heptathlon golden girl, publicly announced her retirement yesterday after injury ended he own bid to qualify for London.
She said: “I had prolapsed discs two years ago and it was always a 50-50 chance of me making the Olympics.
“I had to make sure I gave myself the chance of making it, I didn’t want to have any regrets.
“I probably could have just run (the 400 metres) this year and been safer, and could maybe have just scraped into the team for the relay, but it wouldn’t have been what I wanted to do.
“I find just doing one event a bit boring. When you’ve had a life of doing seven events, it’s less interesting just running round a track.
“I used to run 800 and do long jump, I thought I might be the only one in the world who’d ever do that combination!”
Retirement brings the curtain down on a career highlighted by bronze medals at the Athens Olympics and the 2007 World Championships in Osaka and a Commonwealth title in Melbourne in 2006.
In the pentathlon, Sotherton won silver at the World Indoors in Valencia in 2008 to go with European Indoor silvers in Madrid from 2005 and Birmingham from 2007.
She said: “I was a natural runner and jumper, throwing was pretty hard. Even though I got to grips with the shot-put, the javelin was hard. It let me down in quite a few championships and I could have won a hatful of medals.
“I was competing with Carolina Kluft, who I really consider to be the best heptathlete of all time, and if she wasn’t there I could have upgraded myself to a couple more medals.
“But I think I’ve had a distinguished career, if you’d have said before I started, ‘would you like all these medals?’, I’d have said ‘yes please!’.”