Athletics: Rutherford finds silver lining in long jump
Wednesday 09 August 2006
Alternating sunshine and showers on the second day of the European Championships proved perfectly suitable weather for a British team which saw medal prospects washed out in the 100 metres and heptathlon, only to gleam in the long jump, where 19-year-old Greg Rutherford earned a welcome silver.
While Dwain Chambers could only manage seventh in the sprint final, and the Commonwealth heptathlon champion Kelly Sotherton had to settle for seventh in a competition won by the home favourite Carolina Kluft, Rutherford became the first British medallist at the 19th European Championships after jumping 8.13m with his final attempt.
Rutherford's effort overhauled Oleksiy Lukashevych of the Ukraine by a centimetre in a competition won by Italy's Andrew Howe with 8.20m.
The 21-year-old winner, who moved to his adopted country from Los Angeles at the age of four, was favourite to take the gold, having achieved 8.41m earlier this season. But Britain's ginger-haired European junior champion, who has progressed from 7.28m to 8.26m in the last two years, indicated that he is also a rising young talent with this ebullient performance.
Two months ago, having been chosen for the European Cup place ahead of Britain's two better established long-jumping talents Chris Tomlinson and Nathan Morgan, who finished ninth and 11th respectively this time, Rutherford finished an embarrassing last, failing to register a proper jump.
Now the young man who once had trials for Aston Villa, and whose footballing heritage includes a great-grandfather, Jock Rutherford, who became the oldest player to appear for Arsenal at 41 in 1926 and a grandfather, John, who also played for the Gunners, has more than made up for that lapse.
It seemed fitting that he should receive the flowers at his medal ceremony from Lyn Davies, Britain's Olympic long jump champion of 1964. Can he emulate that? He is going to try.
"I am dead chuffed," Rutherford said. "A couple of years ago I was watching athletics on the telly and now I am here. After my first attempt today I felt really down. But before the last one I felt so relaxed and I knew I could jump very far. So I did it. One day I want to break the world record and win the Olympics. Football runs in my family but I have justified being an athlete. Athletics is all about individuality."
Athletics can also be all about frustration, as Sotherton learnt once again.
A long jump of 6.51m in the first heptathlon event of the day was enough to keep the Olympic bronze medallist in her overnight silver medal position, but she shook her head as she emerged from the pit and had clearly been hoping for something closer to her personal best of 6.68.
Five hours later her day fell apart as, on a runway made slippy by rain, she could only manage a javelin throw of 30.05m, 10 metres below the far from formidable personal best of 40.81m she managed in earning an Olympic bronze two years ago, and worse even than she had produced in Melbourne five months earlier when she still managed to take the overall gold. She left gingerly clutching at her back, which had caused her a scare a week earlier when she had jarred an old injury.
"I can't keep throwing the javelin like that or I might as well give everyone a 200 points start," she had said in Australia. "I won't win medals in major championships otherwise."
Alas, that prediction turned out to be spot-on. By the time she took to the track for the concluding 800m event she had dropped to seventh place, 133 points adrift of the bronze. She needed something extra special on the track, and she clearly gave everything in finishing third in 2min 11.98sec, but it was not enough.
Jessica Ennis, a bronze medallist behind Sotherton in Melbourne, emerged from this event with eighth place - just three points adrift of Sotherton with a score of 6287 - and growing credit at the age of 20.
Chambers' prospects of regaining the 100m title, after his 2002 gold was stripped from him for doping irregularities last month, had looked forlorn after a semi-final in which he had only managed to qualify in fourth, recording 10.25.
There was no miraculous recovery as he laboured to a time of 10.24sec in a race won in 9.99sec by Portugal's Francis Obikwelu, who inherited the 2002 title from him. Mark Lewis-Francis was the top British finisher, fifth in 10.16sec.
Tim Benjamin reached today's 400m final, but only as the fourth qualifier in his heat in 45.67sec, while Rebecca Lyne reached tomorrow's 800m final with another good performance.
Earlier in the day, miserably predictable news had come through that Dean Macey, whose ambition of adding a European decathlon medal to the gold he won at the Commonwealth Games five months ago was undermined by an injury in training last week, had to withdraw from his event, which gets under way tomorrow.
"Having had the high of my first major gold only five months ago, I can honestly say this was the most painful decision of my career," Macey said.
British athletes here had been warned that UK Athletics intended to offer public marks out of ten for their performances. And lo, it has come to pass, as the first report cards from the erformance director, Dave Collins, and his senior managers have been issued to the 13 boys and girls who have had to go home early.
Thus Zoe Derham, whose effort of 56.94m in the hammer failed to earn her a place in the final, received a mark of two and the additional comment: "Poor. Way off the pace and below her PB." Two marks also went to Adam Scarr, who no-heighted in the high jump qualifying and earned the judgement: "Overwhelmed on his first appearance at this level. Must learn from the experience."
Let's hope that, in Scarr's case, the first cut is not the deepest.
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