The morning after the last Olympic long jump final, Greg Rutherford woke up in a Beijing hospital suffering from exhaustion and multiple infections.
What a difference four years makes. Yesterday, the 25-year-old from Milton Keynes, who this time around had not even bothered going to bed, was luxuriating in the first British gold medal in the long jump for 48 years. Although Rutherford entered the event with the longest jump of the year, his Olympic crown was the least expected of the three golds secured by Britain in that magical 45 minutes on Saturday night.
The jumper has battled repeated injury and dips in form ever since he arrived on the world stage with a silver medal in the European Championships in 2006. He finished tenth in Beijing and crashed out of last year's world championships. Speaking before his medal ceremony yesterday, Rutherford said: "It has been a tough, tough path. I always said that I was in it to win gold in the major competitions. It still hasn't sunk in.
"I spent most of the night, when I did manage to get home, just staring at the ceiling and trying to take in what had just happened and I still haven't."
Rutherford's winning leap of 8.31m was the product of a remodelled run up in the long jump for the athlete perfected under the tutelage of American super-coach Dan Pfaff, who encouraged the Briton to emulate the style of Olympic legend Carl Lewis.
Rutherford said: "This is just the start for me." In the meantime, the mayor of Milton Keynes was considering bestowing an honour on its most famous son that would be particularly fitting for the Buckinghamshire town – naming a roundabout after him.