Greg Rutherford wins Olympic long jump gold
Greg Rutherford leapt to Olympic glory on Saturday night in the long jump, grabbing Great Britain’s second gold of an extraordinary session just minutes after Jessica Ennis triumphed in the heptathlon.
The cacophony for Ennis from the 80,000-capacity stadium had barely subsided when the 25-year old from Milton Keynes was crowned following a commanding performance in the long jump pit that peaked with a fourth-round jump of 8.31m.
The gold was his when Will Claye of the USA, who reached 8.12, mistimed his final jump and the crowd erupted to salute another British triumph.
It meant Rutherford’s final jump was effectively a leap of honour and he was roared down the runway by an emotional crowd that could barely believe the dominance of the British team it was witnessing. He did not make the jump, running through the pit, but it mattered not. The new Olympic champion held his arms outstretched to rapturous acclaim. Mitchell Watt of Australia took silver with a jump of 8.16 and Claye took bronze.
“I thought I was going to jump further than that but I don’t care,” Rutherford said, after becoming Britain’s first Olympic winner in the event since Lynn Davies in 1964. “What a night for British athletics. Three gold medals out of a possible three.”
He paid tribute to his coach Dan Pfaff, his “most amazing parents”, whom he found in the crowd and embraced emotionally beneath the Olympic cauldron, and his “beautiful girlfriend”.
“The crowd were absolutely incredible,” he said. “This is what I have dreamed of my entire life. I knew I was going to be a sportsman. When I chose athletics, I knew I wanted to be Olympic champion and now I have done it in London.
“Nobody expected me to win this. I think it was just me who thought I could be Olympic champion. I’ve been telling myself that and I did that. This is just the start for me. I want to become double Olympic champion, triple Olympic champion, five-time world medallist. These five years I want them to be my glory years. This will probably be the greatest night of my life, whatever happens. But I will keep striving for more.”
Rutherford’s victory had obliterated memories of his seventh place at the world championships in Daegu last year and 10th place in Beijing in 2008. But it was after the disappointment of going out in the qualifying round at Daegu with a torn hamstring that his path to Olympic glory began. Rutherford went away and remodelled his technique with the help of Pfaff, the American “super coach”, and he spent a winter reworking his take-off technique to mirror that of the Olympic sprint and long jump great Carl Lewis.
Previously a promising footballer who had trials with Aston Villa, Rutherford made a sudden breakthrough in long jumping in 2005, winning the AAA Championships at the age of 18, before winning the European junior championships in a national record of 8.14. The following season he threatened the national record, as he defended his AAA title, jumping 8.26 at the age of 19, before winning a European silver medal in Gothenburg.
The story reached its high point on Saturday night as Rutherford built an unassailable lead over his rivals, posting a jump of 8.21 in the second round and extending it to 8.31 in the fourth round.
As Rutherford took in his victory he donned a union flag and embarked on a victory lap with a look on his face that appeared to vary from delight to disbelief.
Finally, he took off his spikes, looked to the heavens above the Olympic Stadium and puffed his cheeks. He was the champion and he walked to the long jump pit as if to make sure it was not a dream. He patted the take-off strip from where he had destroyed his rivals, scooped up a small handful of sand from the pit and lifted it to his mouth as if to kiss it.
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