Greg Rutherford winning Euro silver, Goteborg, 2006, photo by PhotoRun.net
In 2005, Rutherford long jumped 8.14 meters to take gold in the European Junior Championships. In 2006, his first year as an open athlete, Greg takes silver in the European Champs, jumping 8.13 meters. In 2006, Greg finished sixth in the Commonwealth Games.
Yin and Yang.
That is part of what makes or breaks an elite athlete. Injuries come, injuries go. How do you keep yourself confident? How do you ride the tide of injuries and disappointments, to be ready for the big one?
That is really the story of Greg Rutherford’s career. Some amazing jumps and talent, packaged in one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet.
But in sports, and in business, a “nice guy” can be a negative. In my mind, it is why Greg Rutherford was not greeted by everyone with accolades on his 2012 gold medal performance in the London.
As an athlete develops in our sport, there are more rough days than good days. We call those, for lack of a better term, ” learning experiences”.
Greg Rutherford took tenth in Beijing in 2008. In 2009, his 8.30m jump in the qualifying rounds of Berlin World Champs. In the final, he jumped 8.17m, and finished fifth, his best in a World Champs.
A long jumper needs speed, and Rutherford has it. His pb in the 100 meters dates to 2010, with a time of 10.26 at the Great North City Games. His 2010 had been pretty good: his silver medal at the Commonwealth Games-his second in two visits-came after an 8.22m jump. Greg had struggled that year with a foot injury, missing the 2010 European Champs.
” I have not had much luck in the World Champs, that is why it is so important to me. I want to have that fourth championship medal. ” was how Greg Rutherford spoke to the media at the Manchester City Games presser on Friday, 8 May.
Yin and Yang.
2011 was a difficult year for Rutherford with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the World Champs final. This was after Greg had jumped 8.32m at Nike Pre and set a British record. His British challenger, Chris Tomlinson, broke it that summer with a jump of 8.35m.
Why did London surprise so many?
Greg Rutherford basking in the glow of gold, London 2012,
photo by PhotoRun.net
” I thought that it would take much longer to win in London,” Greg noted to me back in Birmingham in February 2015.
Olympic Games are fraught with tension. 80,000 British fans were in the stadium when Greg Rutherford went into the lead on 4 August 2012. In the second round, Greg jumped 8.21 meters and took the lead. Mitchell Watt, who had jumped over 8.50m that year, jumped 8.16m in response. In the fourth round, Greg Rutherford leaped 8.31 meters. Greg has told me on several occasions, that he expected that he would have to jump much farther to take the gold in London.
He did not. On the night that Jessica Ennis Hill won gold in the heptathlon, and just before Mo Farah took gold in the 10,000 meters, Greg Rutherford won the gold medal in the Long Jump. NEVER before had British athletes won three gold medals in one day at an Olympic venue. NEVER.
and this was when it got weird…
Track fans are a special sort. Geeks, geeks, geeks. But add social media and anonymity, and you have Greg Rutherford, getting grief because he “lucky” to have won. He could never duplicate it.
Greg Rutherford admits, ” I took it to heart. I felt I had to defend myself.”
Note to self. When your critics are anonymous, ignore them. As hard as it is, due to social media being everywhere. So many people believe that they have a right to an opinion on you, and quite frankly, they don’t.
For two years, Greg had a tough go. He dealt with injuries in 2013, loss of a sponsor, and he had to look inside himself and figure out what was really important.
In 2014, Greg Rutherford had his health and he had two Championships. The Commonwealth Games in July in Glasgow, and the European Championships in August. That was not before he had to deal with rival Chris Tomlinson, among others, challenging his new British record of 8.51m done at a early meeting at the US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Greg used that
frustration to win gold medals in Glasgow (8.20m ) and Zurich (8.29m).
So, this is where I put in my story and feelings on winning Championship medals.
Luck is such a loaded word.
Two days in 2014, Greg Rutherford jumped like any one else in the Commonwealth Games and European Games. In two events closely officiated, and watched by thousands, Mr. Rutherford jumped eight meters, twenty and eight meters, twenty-one.
And guess what?
No one else jumped longer.
So, on three days in three years, Greg Rutherford has proved capable of winning Olympic gold, Commonwealth gold and European gold. No one else beat him on those three days.
Pretty good from where I am sitting.
In February 2015, Greg Rutherford, keen to see how his fitness training had gone and how the three kilograms he had added in weight would affect his running, jumped at the Birmingham GP. The result was four personal bests indoors in six jumps, finishing at 8.18 meters.
Greg Rutherford leaps over Birmingham, Feb 2015,
photo by Getty Images for British Athletics
It was also the first time his son, Milo, and his partner, Susie Verill, were in attendance. That was a big deal for Greg Rutherford. The birth of his son, and the time he spends with Susie and Milo mean much to him. Perhaps that is part of what has relaxed him. For some, a child puts one’s priorities in line.
Sitting in the stands at the NIA Stadium, I was fascinated to watch Greg jump. He was a bit faster, but most importantly, he jumped with a confidence I had not seen in him before.
” I had decided on one competition indoors, and then, I was named to the European team, and then, I was named the Captain. It was a bit of a nightmare.” confided Greg Rutherford to a group of fascinated media today.
“One must stick with their plans.” noted Greg Rutherford.
The jumping at the Manchester Great City Games is about testing oneself. ” Beijing is very important this year, as Rio is important next year.”
It is obvious that Greg Rutherford wants to win the gold in Beijing. He has not World Champs medal. ” Winning in Beijing would be pretty special.” Rutherford notes and smiles.
When a media member queries on his dreams for Rio, Rutherford notes that he will only be 29, and that winning a gold in Rio is part of that dream he has.
This year, it is about dreams of Beijing. Next year, for Greg Rutherford, it will be dreams of RIo.
But tonight, it is dreams of Manchester, and a few dry minutes between the rain drops for a nice long jump.