Greg Rutherford ready to take Atlantic leap as trusted coach plans return to Texas

 

Greg Rutherford was back on old ground yesterday but thinking of a future that could take the new golden boy of British athletics to Texas. The Milton Keynes athlete who struck long jump gold on that magical Super Saturday in the Olympic Stadium three weeks ago was coaching youngsters at the Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Club, recalling his time in the area as a 14-year-old triallist with Aston Villa.

The one time wannabe Villan will be paraded as a fully fledged national hero in front of a 12,800 sell-out crowd at the Aviva Birmingham Grand Prix tomorrow but he might soon be upping sticks and moving to the United States.

Rutherford revealed that the coach who furnished him with a Midas touch, Dan Pfaff, is considering returning to Texas. "Ideally, for me, Dan would stay here," he said. "But wherever he goes I won't be far behind. If Dan does back to Texas, I'll be looking to relocate there as well."

Pfaff, who guided the Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey to Olympic 100m gold in Atlanta in 1996, has been employed as a coach by UK Athletics since 2009 and his eclectic training group at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in north London has been one of the success stories of Charles van Commenee's tenure as head coach of the national governing body. As well as helping Rutherford to fulfil his huge potential, Pfaff has piloted pole vaulter Steve Lewis and javelin thrower Goldie Sayers to British-record performances this summer and Rhys Williams to the European 400m hurdles title.

However, the American's contract expires in December and Rutherford suspects he will return home, partly as a result of the resentment within sections of the British coaching community that greeted his arrival on a high salary. "I think Dan's had a bit of a hard time in the UK," Rutherford said. "I don't think people were prepared to listen to what he had to say and it was down to some of the athletes to approach him, rather than coaches and staff.

"That's been tough for Dan. He's had a fantastic career. He's coached some great athletes and he's been doing so well with us. But when he came over to Britain people just didn't want to take on board what he had to say. I think because of that he's missing being at home in America. His family didn't come with him and he hasn't seen that much of his wife for the last few years. He's also got a grandchild now. I think he might be thinking about going back to the US. If he did go back, I would definitely go with him. As athletes you have to be serious about these things. If I want to continue to progress and win major medals, I need Dan in my corner. If he's going to live in America, I've got to do the same."

If Rutherford were to cross the pond, British athletics would be left with just the one Olympic champion based on home soil. Mo Farah, who runs in the two-mile race in Birmingham tomorrow, moved to Portland last year to train under Alberto Salazar. Jessica Ennis, an absentee from the Diamond League meeting, has no plans to uproot from Sheffield.

Van Commenee is pondering his own future, after his team fell two medals short of his Olympic target of eight. "I've told him multiple times now that I want him to stay," Rutherford said. "I'm hoping he understands that 99 per cent of the team really like him and think he's done a fantastic job. Bringing in was a stroke of genius."

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