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Idowu leaps ahead as Rutherford medal quest fails

Phillips Idowu's prospects of winning the Olympic triple jump title came on in leaps and bounds here yesterday as he reached Thursday's final with his first qualifying effort of 17.44 metres, a full 34cm further than the mark required.

But the 29-year-old from Hackney in London will want to avoid emulating the experience of fellow Briton Greg Rutherford, who could only finish 10th in last night's long jump final despite having reached it with a similar flourish to Idowu.

Rutherford, who had to take a year out with an ankle injury following his European silver medal win in 2006, was close to tears after failing to do better than 7.84m – 36cm less than he jumped to win the British trials – in a competition where gold went to Panama's world No 1 Irving Saladino in a relatively conservative 8.34m. Had the 21-year-old from Milton Keynes been able to jump in Beijing as he had in Birmingham, he would have had a bronze.

"I had massive high hopes and I know what I can jump," Rutherford said. "I was expecting a medal and I've probably just lost my best-ever chance of getting an Olympic medal. I could feel the pressure a lot and I thought I could deal with it. It's a wasted opportunity.

"It is a massive disappointment. If someone had pulled out a massive jump, then at least I could say 'he jumped far'. But people weren't exactly jumping well out there. I don't know why.

"Qualification went well. It felt easy and I thought, 'I am going to go out here and get myself a medal'. All day I was thinking about was the possibility of being the first British athletics medal at this Olympics and I knew I was capable of doing it. I will be angry more than anything when I look back."

While Rutherford's big chance may lie four years down the line at the London Games, Idowu's is now. Four years ago he qualified without undue fuss in Athens, but then failed to register a mark in the final. This looks likely to be a far happier experience.

Christian Malcolm reached today's 200m semi-finals in 20.30sec, the sixth fastest qualifying time, and was joined by team-mate Marlon Devonish, who was a fastest loser after facing the testing challenge of running in the next lane to the stellar Jamaican Usain Bolt in his second round heat. Bolt ambled through in 20.29sec.

While Rutherford despaired, Sarah Claxton and Tasha Danvers rejoiced after reaching the finals of the 100m and 400m hurdles respectively.

Meanwhile, Martyn Rooney, who has said he will have had a "bad championships" if he does not make the Olympic final, has taken a firm stride towards it by winning his opening 400m heat in 45sec. His team-mate Andrew Steele went even faster, achieving a personal best of 44.94sec.

It will be the women's 400m which earns the bulk of attention here today, however, as Britain's world champion Christine Ohuruogu faces Sanya Richards of the United States.