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Greg Rutherford interview

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Greg Rutherford interview
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Describing yourself as an “Olympian, a ginger and a keen baker” might not have your rivals running scared, but long-jumper Greg Rutherford shares the longest jump in the world this year. That’ll do it…

With current world champion Dwight Phillips out injured and you holding the longest jump of the year (8.35m, shared with Russian teen Sergey Morgunov), does that make you a gold-medal contender?
“I’m among them, but Mitchell Watt from Australia takes the title of favourite going into it. After some of the distances he jumped last year, he’ll go in there with people expecting him to jump really far. I’m in the top three or so who go in thinking that, if things go well, they should win a medal. I’ll put that pressure on myself, too, because I want to win. I expect nothing less than winning a medal. I’d be devastated to come away without one – it would make my year a complete disaster, no matter what I did before or afterwards.”

What do you put your good start to the year down to?
“We tweaked my technique over the winter, after we found out there was a major issue with my penultimate step before take-off. What I do now is based around what Carl Lewis used to do, which is a lateral step outwards in your penultimate step. Rather than putting a lot of strain on my hamstrings – which has caused me a lot of problems – we’re now offloading that on to different parts of my body.”

Was that something that came out of the video analysis you do?
“Yeah, it’s something that’s relatively new to me. It was only when I started training with my most recent coach, Dan Pfaff, that we began using videos as a training aid. It’s given me the ability to watch back other jumpers’ techniques and compare myself to them, which has really helped me develop. My coach is a genius. He’ll look at me and say: ‘You can take this aspect of this person’s jump, which works for them, but you can also take this from another person because that will work for you.’ Which is better than: ‘This works for this person – do all of it.’”

Your personal best over 100m is 10.26s, which is fairly rapid. Are you planning to emulate Carl Lewis further by adding ‘sprinter’ to ‘long-jumper’ on your CV?
“Well, in 2010 I made the relay squad for the Commonwealth Games and was a bit disappointed not to run. It would have been a great opportunity for me to show I can pass the baton. Sadly, since then I haven’t had a lot of chances to sprint. But, after this year, I want to try and be a relay runner as well as a long-jumper. Dan [Pfaff] tells me he believes I can be good enough, and it would be a great thing to get an individual spot in the 100m. Speed is my major factor when it comes to jumping, so I may as well try to use that to my advantage in other parts of track and field.”

You could have had an altogether different career, though. You had trials at Aston Villa – so why choose athletics over football?
“It came down to enjoyment, really. I was a lazy football player. I played up front, I liked scoring goals, but everything around it – the training and everything else – I wasn’t as keen on. Then I went to a track and really enjoyed working hard there, so I started to lean more towards the track than football. When I was about 15, I completely stopped playing football. I probably never would have made it as a football player and I’ve been fortunate enough to do well in my athletics career, so I think I made the right choice.”

But football is in your blood, isn’t it?
“My great-grandfather played for Arsenal and Newcastle and he won 11 caps for England as well. I’m a Manchester United fan, though. Being from Milton Keynes, before the Dons came along there was no local football team, so really you could give your allegiance to anybody. My dad supported them, so I decided to as well. I was born in 1986, though, and United weren’t very good in the ‘80s. So I’m not really a glory hunter, honest.”

Sarah Shephard @sarahsportmag

Greg Rutherford uses Maximuscle, the UK and Europe’s number one sports nutrition brand, to optimise performance. Visit maximuscle.com

Men’s long jump

Friday 7.50pm (qualification), Saturday 7.55pm (final)

Rutherford is among a handful of British athletes who could medal in London, but it’s sturdy Aussie Mitchell Watt who arrives as favourite. He won silver at the worlds last year behind London sicknote Dwight Phillips – and, while 8.28m remains Watt’s longest leap of 2012, he has a PB of 8.54m from last summer. Russian Sergey Morgunov equalled Rutherford’s PB of 8.35m before winning gold at the World Juniors, but this summer could be too soon for him.