Beijing Stories: More recognition for Greg Rutherford, by Stuart Weir

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Greg Rutherford is one of my favorite athletes.

There, I have said it.

Rutherford_Greg-Beijing15.JPGGreg Rutherford, photo by PhotoRun.net

I have seen his wins in Olympic champs, Euro Champs, Commonwealth Games and yes, World Champs. He is a tough competitor and student of his sport. His interviews are quoteable and world class. He and Valerie Adams, in Glasgow DL last year, was one of the funniest interviews (I have the tape, I will have to post it), that I have ever been to, with Adams vowing to try a marathon and Rutherford not wanting any part of it.

The long jump is an event that most kids do in school. It is one of those events, that sports fans, if presented well, can instinctively enjoy.

Rutherford's competitions are great theater. There are always a few who think that they can take him on, and get him on the big stage, but since 2012, no one has gotten him on the only stages that matter-Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Games.

Here is Stuart Weirs' straightforward piece, (Stu said to me, "well, it really isn't that good.")Actually, it was quite good.

Thanks Stuart, and thanks, Greg Rutherford for giving us such fun interviews!

Oh, and for the record, I want to see a competition in Greg's garden in the long jump! Could be fantastic!

Rutherford-Powell-Beijing15.JPGGreg Rutherford, WC, Mike Powell, former WC, WR (8.95m), photo by PhotoRun.net

More recognition for Greg Rutherford?

Greg Rutherford is the World Champion, the Olympic Champion, the Commonwealth champion, the European Champion and the current British record holder in long jump - and he is favourite to win the 2015 Diamond League series - yet somehow he has never quite got the recognition he might expect for his achievements. To put his performances in context, the only other British athletes to hold all four titles simultaneously are Daley Thompson, Sally Gunnell, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie.

One of Greg's comments after the Beijing World Championship win, "maybe I'm not too bad of a long jumper", confirms Greg's own frustration with his lack of recognition. When he won the 2014 European Championship in Zurich, there was no press conference as only two journalists - myself and Paul Halford (Athletics Weekly) - wanted to speak to him. Greg expressed his disappointment as he spoke to us in the mixed zone (where post race interviews are conducted), adding that he had never had a winner's press conference. Then he told us that he had "fluked another title" - quoting back what had been written about him.

When Rutherford established a new British record of 8.51 in April 2014, to add insult to injury, the previous holder of the record, Chris Tomlinson, claimed that the record should not stand as it was a foul because his foot was "significantly over the line" when he took off.

Rutherford won his Olympic gold medal on "super Saturday" when Britain won three athletics gold medals in one evening. Even then Greg was somehow the poor relation. Jess Ennis' heptathlon gold medal was the culmination of the two days competition, climaxed by 2 minutes on the track with everyone anticipating a victory. The 10,000 metres race was eagerly awaited as the crowd wondered if Mo Farah could add Olympic to his World and European titles. There was no expectation that Rutherford would triumph and his victory almost slipped under the radar. While everyone could see that Mo Farah was winning his race, keeping up with a long jump competition can be more tricky for the spectator. And while the TV viewer gets the entire race, the coverage will move back and forward from the long jump.

Mo Farah has reportedly been paid large sums to run the London Marathon (and indeed to run half of it!). Every time I go to my bank website I am greeted by a smiling Jess Ennis. Greg has not had the same offers. To misquote George Orwell in Animal Farm -- "All athletic disciplines are equal, but some disciplines are more equal than others." And field events in most countries, tend to be less equal.

Largely, I would say that Greg is a victim of circumstances, related to the event he has chosen. If he has a fault, it is that he has been"too honest". He says what he thinks - rather than giving the "Politically correct answer".

That said, I count myself fortunate to have been in London, Glasgow, Zurich and Beijing to see him complete his set. I have talked to him many times and have always found him engaging.

When Jonathan Edwards broke the world triple jump record in Gothenburg in 1995, he was called "the man who made the triple jump sexy". Perhaps Greg can now make the long-jump sexy and begin to get the recognition his performances deserve.

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