Kelly Sotherton set three personal bests on the opening day in Gothenburg to put herself in line for a heptathlon medal at the European Championships.

She was not the only Great Britain heptathlete to have an outstanding series of events, however, as 20-year-old Jessica Ennis also performed spectacularly well.

They both trailed world, Olympic and defending European champion Carolina Kluft, but Sotherton stood in second place and Ennis in third after four of the seven disciplines.

Kluft had trailed France's Eunice Barber early in the competition, but her withdrawal after two events with a hamstring injury positioned the Swede in pole position for gold.

Kluft reached the end of day one with 3,990 points, with Sotherton on 3,866 and Ennis on 3,861.

Medals are by no means assured, with Ukraine's Nataliya Dobrynska and Karin Ruckstuhl from Holland likely to enter the equation.

Olympic bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games champion Sotherton set new lifetime bests in the 100metres hurdles, shot put and 200m. In Barber's absence, the 29-year-old can now set her sights on a good podium place.

She experienced a mixed morning session, clocking 13.22 seconds for the sprint hurdles but then disappointing in the high jump with a clearance of only 1.77metres.

However she bettered her personal best by 36 centimetres in the shot with 14.27m to initially move into bronze medal contention, and her 200m time of 23.57secs completed her day in fine style.

Ennis appeared to relish the atmosphere in the Ullevi Stadium and pipped Sotherton by one hundredth of a second in the 200m, adding another personal best to her tally after doing likewise in the shot with 12.72m.

Sotherton should excel in the long jump and 800m today, however the javelin event has let her down in the past, and is likely to do so again.

Last night she said: "It's been good positive performances all day, although I was disappointed with my high jump. My injury has held up and it's great to be in one

piece and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Of the personal bests I think the shot put was the best."

Elated Ennis said: "I've just seen the points score and I'm a bit in shock - to be third, it's surreal and I'm really over the moon.

"I ran my heart out in the 200m and when I saw Kelly alongside me, I just had to fight hard to the end."

There were further strong performances from the Norwich Union GB side, which hinted at possible medals today.

Dwain Chambers looked a class act in his first heat before making a horrible start in the second round of the 100m. But he recovered to claim a semi-final place and will join Mark Lewis-Francis at that stage today.

Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson qualified automatically for the long jump final, clearing 8.07m and 7.95m, while Nathan Morgan also went through with a leap of 7.94m.

Commonwealth Games champion Nick Nieland reached Wednesday's javelin final with a throw of 80.40m, which was 60cm shy of the automatic qualifying distance but still comfortable carried him through, while Andy Baddeley qualified for the 1,500m final. Former Commonwealth Games 1,500m gold medallist Michael East might have joined him, but he fell during a sprint finish.

"I came here to race, but the opportunity for me has just gone out of the window - I ended up falling flat on my face," said East, who has had injury problems and came to Sweden with only two races under his belt.

Becky Lyne and Jemma Simpson moved into the 800m semi-finals and Amanda Pritchard joined them when she was reinstated on appeal, after being obstructed coming into the home straight in her heat.

Tim Benjamin, Graham Hedman and Robert Tobin also moved into the 400m semi-finals but there were some disappointing showings.

Most notable was Jamaican-born Germaine Mason, the man expected to revitalise British high-jumping after switching nationality, who blew his chances of reaching the final with a best clearance of only 2.19m.

The biggest embarrassment came in the women's 10,000m final - the only track final of the opening night - where Kathy Butler, Mara Yamauchi and Hayley Yelling were all lapped in a race won by Inga Abitova of Russia in 30 minutes 31.42secs.