GREG Rutherford knows he may have to break the British long-jump record again to top the podium at this week’s European Championships – a feat that he hopes would shut the naysayers up for good.
Two years on from winning Olympic gold on “Super Saturday”, the 27-year-old once more thrilled a home crowd by leaping to Commonwealth glory in Glasgow two weeks ago.
Victory continued what has been a fine few months on and off the track for Rutherford, who revealed that his girlfriend Susie Verrill is expecting their first child in the same week he was named British record holder.
That jump of 8.51 metres in Chula Vista, San Diego in April was not without its controversy – Great Britain team-mate Chris Tomlinson claimed it was a “large foul” – and Rutherford knows he may have to go even further to top the podium in Zurich this week. “I started the season in great shape, feeling good and rose to an occasion in San Diego against Will Claye, Tyron Stewart and that lot, which meant that I performed well,” he said.
“I have not been jumping like that since, but caught one at the Commonwealths which filled me with confidence.
“I might have to go 51. I mean Aleksandr Menkov jumped 56 last year, and if he’s on point it can happen if Christian Reif is jumping well. He loves a big performance as well. We will see.
“Apparently the track is amazing as well, so from that point of view it could be a very, very exciting competition.”
As well as medals, Zurich offers Rutherford the opportunity to hush the doubters once and for all.
Some have suggested he was lucky to win the Olympics with an 8.31m jump, but a new British record at the European Championships would surely shut such people up for good.
“It is getting slightly frustrating now, in a way,” Rutherford said, breaking away from his normal jovial demeanour. “It is a bit like ‘what do I have to do?’ I think what people often forget in track and field is that it is probably one of the hardest sports in the world to compete in because we do compete against the rest of the world.
“There are far too many sports out there when you are only competing against 15 or 20 other countries. We compete against the entire world.
“Track and field is the most basic of all sports. If you are the fastest, you win. If you jump the longest, you do it.
“Facilities don’t have to be amazing, you don’t have to have all the highest technology. A pair of spikes and decent pair of legs is basically what it comes down to.
“So it is not as easy as people might think to win at what we do, so when you do it is good from that point of view.
“With regards to the Olympics, it might have only been 8.31 but I beat everybody who turned up on the day. You can’t ask any more I don’t think.
“It would have been nice to jump 8.70 and set the world alight in that competition, but it doesn’t work like that. Fairy tales are often just the win rather than the story line that goes with it.”
Perhaps those doubters are in some way helping to fuel his desire to take on bob skeleton – a sport which he hopes to be able to transfer his speed and power onto ice.
A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, Rutherford plans to try the sport in Bath this September and, if he is any good at it, really kick on with it post-2016. “If I don’t give it a go I will always be thinking ‘maybe I could have done it’,” the daredevil skier and childhood cliff-jumper said.
He added: “I’m kind of excited by going 85mph, head-first down an ice track. I love the idea of it. There’s something about it that genuinely gets me incredibly excited.”