Jessica Ennis brought the house down before lunchtime on Friday when she started the quest for heptathlon Olympic gold in front of a British home crowd with the fastest 100-metre hurdles time ever recorded in the multi-event.

The sell-out crowd of 82,000 roared its approval as the 2009 world champion Ennis won the final heat in 12.54 seconds to take an early lead in the gruelling two-day event. Her previous best hurdles in a heptathlon was 12.79 seconds.

Beijing 2008 gold medallist Natalia Dobrynska of Ukraine, whose husband and coach Dmitry Polyakov died in March of cancer, had 13.57 seconds.

In men’s shot put qualifying, US medal contender advanced into the evening final with 21.36m, German world champion David Storl had 21.15m and the 2008 champion Tomasz Majewski also beat the qualifying mark of 20.65m with a put of 21.03m.

The shot put and women’s 10,000m were the first medal events of the showcase sport later Friday, while Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt was to take to the track Saturday to start his Beijing 2008 title defences in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m.

Set for the Friday morning session were, among others, heats in the triple jump, 400m -- featuring Brunei’s first woman at the Olympics Maziah Mahusin -- and the 100m preliminaries.

The start of the 10 days of athletics on a breezy and partly cloudy morning also brought the Olympic flame back to attention.

The flame had been burning quietly in the empty stadium since being lit at the opening ceremony a week ago, placed behind the finish line and not visible from outside.

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