Greg Rutherford’s ascent to Olympic long jump champion on Super Saturday last summer may have taken many by surprise, but the Milton Keynes man with the Midas touch is busy exceeding his own expectations as he prepares to challenge for the World Championship title in Moscow in August.
Competing at the IAAF World Challenge Meeting in Melbourne on Saturday, the 26-year-old jumped 8.10m to claim victory ahead of Mitch Watt, his second win in three weeks over the Australian who took silver behind him at London 2012.
The fact that Rutherford is only just starting to hit his straps in training again, after undergoing foot surgery in the autumn, augurs well for his prospects of a golden post-Olympic season. “I’m pretty pleased with doing that off minimal training,” he said. “An 8.10 isn’t anything massively special but, blimey, we are in the early part of the year. I didn’t expect to be able to jump that well so early. It’s back to some real work in Phoenix as of Tuesday.”
Rutherford heads for Arizona tomorrow to lay the foundations for the summer season under the direction of Dan Pfaff, the American coach who helped him to Olympic gold last year. A former protégé of Tom Tellez, the coach who guided Carl Lewis to three Olympic long jump titles, Pfaff has remodelled the Briton’s technique and started to help Rutherford fulfil the huge potential he showed as a junior prodigy.
“I’ve got a huge opportunity now to perfect the technique I’ve been working on under Dan,” Rutherford said. “I want to turn the speed and the power that I’ve got into something that really is a respectable distance. As much as 8.35m got me to world No 1 last year, if you look at the all-time rankings it’s not an impressive distance.”