The Olympic long jump champion, Greg Rutherford, has hit back at his critics after returning to competition for the first time in six months, saying he will “shut up everybody by jumping far”.
Rutherford has struggled with a series of hamstring injuries since winning gold at London 2012. His return to action was delayed in Glasgow last month by a hamstring tear, his withdrawal leading to an on-air rebuke from BBC pundits and former Olympic champions Denise Lewis and Jonathan Edwards.
Rutherford finally returned to competition on Saturday at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, matching his personal best indoors of eight metres to finish third.
“This has been a good day for me and, hopefully, it will start to silence a few of those people when they realise I can still compete,” he said. “When I was a kid and I was always trying to get to where I eventually got to, a lot of people said it’d never be me, I’d never be the guy to do it, and it seems I got there and now people are telling me I will never do it again. Well, I am very much driven and able to do it again.
“It makes me angry when former athletes have a pop; they are very quick to forget how it was when they were athletes. I’m Olympic champion – does that deserve respect? I’d like to think so. I can’t make everybody like me, so I’m going to keep jumping and aim to come back with another title. I’ll use it as motivation. I’ll shut everybody up by jumping far.”
Rutherford was responding to comments by Edwards, who had said in Glasgow: “It was a shock when he won the title. He’s fragile and was lucky in London it all came together.” Lewis had said: “You are defined by the decisions you make and the personality you exude after that title. I’m not sure Greg has managed himself well.”
The 27-year-old admitted he had been both hurt and bemused by the criticism. “I am waiting to find out why certain individuals want to have a bit of a pop at me,” he said. “I think it’s all very unnecessary. Most of these people I know quite well and have always got on with, and I genuinely have no idea why they are doing this. Nobody’s explained why, no one’s said it to my face, and that’s what I find more frustrating.”
Despite achieving the qualifying standard, Rutherford will miss next month’s World Indoors in Sopot, Poland, in order to stay fit for his long-term goal of the Commonwealth Games. Rather than travel to Poland, he will train in San Diego before the outdoor season.
The hopes of Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson competing in the World Indoors pentathlon suffered a setback when she withdrew from her sole qualifier in Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands, yesterday because of illness.
The Liverpudlian competed in the hurdles before pulling out and described herself as “absolutely devastated”. She has still qualified for the World Indoors in the high jump and long jump, and could yet get a discretionary place in the pentathlon.