Today at the Olympics: Rutherford leaps under the radar

Unheralded No 1 long jumper this year tells Simon Turnbull he is the man to beat

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The Independent Online

Two British athletes go into the Olympic track and field programme, which starts today, at the top of the world rankings in their events this year. One of them is male, the other female.

No prizes for guessing the woman: Jessica Ennis, who stands 132 points clear of her rivals at the top of the global heptathlon order this year. But the man?

Dai Greene? No. Mo Farah? No again.

Try Greg Rutherford.

Since 3 May, the 25-year-old Milton Keynes athlete has been in pole position in the long jump rankings. He equalled Chris Tomlinson's British record that day, jumping 8.35m at a meeting in Chula Vista, California.

Rutherford is now the joint world leader, the 19-year old Russian Sergey Morgunov having achieved the same distance at Cheboksary on 20 June, but he goes into the qualifying round this morning as a serious contender in an event that has a wide-open look about it. Somehow, he has managed to fly under the radar of recognition and expectation right up to the Games.

"Equalling the British record was great," he says, "but now it's about jumping the kind of distances that will make me Olympic champion. I'm surprised that 8.35m is still leading the world rankings, to be honest.

"I've always said 8.50m or something around there would be needed for gold but it depends. If Mitchell Watt [the world championship silver medallist from Australia] and Sebastian Bayer [the European champion from Germany] turn up firing on all cylinders, it could get to those distances.

"It's tough to predict. All I know is that my big jumps were earlier this year and I should be able to add some decent centimetres to that. And that means everyone needs to beat me."

Rutherford was a European Championship silver medallist as a 19-year-old in Gothenburg in 2006 but his huge talent has been undermined by injury and inconsistency. However, under the direction of Dan Pfaff, the coach who guided Donovan Bailey to Olympic 100m gold for Canada in 1996, he has shown signs of fulfilling his world-beating potential.

Pfaff has remodelled his technique, basing it on that of Carl Lewis, the four-time Olympic long jump champion – with whom Pfaff worked, as an assistant to Lewis' long-time coach, Tom Tellez. "You always have to try to learn from the guys who have been the best," Rutherford says. "There's always something you can pick up and I am fortunate that Dan worked under Tom Tellez.

"I will never jump exactly like Lewis because he was a bit of a freak. It's going to be a long process. Nothing's a quick fix in a technical event, but I have picked up bits quickly."

Four years ago Rutherford had to pick himself up off a hospital bed in Beijing. The day after the Olympic long jump final, in which he placed 10th, he was rushed into hospital suffering from tonsillitis and kidney and lung infections.

Last month he missed the London and Monaco Diamond League meetings because of cramp but happily reported: "The wisest thing I could have done was cut off the last couple of competitions. In doing that I've given my body that bit of rest which I needed. Training has been going fantastic."

Which is good news for a young man with a fantastic sporting pedigree. His great-grandfather was Jock Rutherford, one of the stars of football's Edwardian era. Known as "the Newcastle flyer," he won three championship titles for the Magpies and played in five FA Cup finals.

Greg had trials with Aston Villa. Happily, he has become a potential British athletics hero rather than a professional Villan.

So, what can team GB win today? Track and pool offer more gold

After a remarkable day of success yesterday, there could well be just as many medals waiting for Team GB today, primarily in cycling and rowing, with possible repeats of yesterday's triumphs, too, in judo and shooting.

The most dramatic moment, though, could well come in the Aquatic Centre at 7.45pm. Rebecca Adlington is competing in the women's 800m freestyle final, hoping to retain the Olympic title she won in Beijing four years ago. Just before, at 7.30pm, Lizzie Simmonds will race in the 200m backstroke final.

Out on the open water at Eton Dorney, there is another good chance for gold in the women's double sculls rowing at 12.10pm. Anna Watkins and Kat Grainger performed exceptionally in the heats and are favoured to succeed. Before then the men's quadruple scull have their final at 11.30am. The men's pair of George Nash and William Satch race in their final at 11.50am and then Alan Campbell in the single sculls final at 12.30pm.

Victoria Pendleton has a chance to make up for the disappointment of last night in today's keirin, against old rival Anna Meares. The first round is at 4pm, the second at 5.46pm and the final at 6.38pm. Before then the men's Team Pursuit team, who qualified so brilliantly with a world record last night, have their first round at 4.18pm and final at 5.59pm.

Judo brought a silver medal yesterday, and today Karina Bryant and Christopher Sherrington have chances to match Gemma Gibbons in the women's 78kg and men's 100kg categories respectively. Bryant's final would be at 4pm, Sherrington's at 4.10pm. They both start in the morning with last-32 matches. Larry Godfrey will compete in the men's individual archery, starting at 9am with a possible final at 3.21pm.

What's on TV...

TV: 9am-1pm, BBC1

TV: 9am-2pm, BBC3

9.30am Handball Women's Group A: Angola v Great Britain. After an improved display against Brazil last time out, GB women look to secure their first win of London 2012.

10.05am Athletics Women's heptathlon: 100m hurdles. Great Britain's poster girl, Jessica Ennis, begins her campaign with one of her best events as the track and field meet gets under way in the Olympic Stadium.

11.30am Rowing Men's quadruple sculls final. Great Britain go in Final A, against the likes of Germany and Australia.

11.50am Rowing Men's pairs final, followed by the women's double sculls final at 12.10pm – where Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins are favoured – and the men's single sculls final at 12.30pm.

12 noon Shooting Men's 50m rifle prone final. Featuring Britain's Jonathan Hammond and James Huckle.

Tennis Men's singles semi-finals: Andy Murray takes on Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, looking for a place in his second SW19 final in a month. Serena Williams takes on Victoria Azarenka in the women's last four.

TV: 1-1.45pm, 6-7pm BBC2

TV: 1.45-6pm, BBC1

TV: 2-7pm, BBC3

3.26pm Gymnastics Trampoline Men's final.

3.37pm Archery Men's individual gold-medal contest. Fourth seed Larry Godfrey carries home hopes.

4pm Cycling Women's keirin round 1. Victoria Pendleton seeks to get over the disappointment of yesterday's disqualification in the team sprint.

Judo Men's +100kg gold-medal contest; women's +78kg gold-medal contest.

4.45pm Volleyball Women's pool A: Great Britain seek to get back to winning ways against the Dominican Republic.

5.59pm Cycling Track Men's team pursuit final, with the women's keirin final at 6.38pm.

6.20pm Water polo Women's Group B: Great Britain v Italy. The hosts seek to recover from a heavy loss to Australia.

TV: 7-10pm, BBC1

TV: 7-11pm, BBC3

7.30pm Football Women's quarter-final: Great Britain v Canada. Hope Powell's side take on the Canadians in Coventry for a place in the last four. United States or New Zealand, who met earlier today in Newcastle, await.

Swimming Women's 200m backstroke final, followed by the men's 100m butterfly final at 7.38pm. Rebecca Adlington then hopes to defend her 800m freestyle title at 7.45pm

7.50pm Athletics Men's long-jump qualifying. Greg Rutherford begins his campaign.

8pm Basketball Women's Group B: Great Britain need a victory against France to have any chance of making the quarter-finals.

8.09pm Swimming Men's 50m freestyle final.

8.30pm Athletics Men's shot final – where GB's Carl Myerscough hopes to feature, followed by the final women's heptathlon event of the day, the 200m.

9.25pm Athletics Women's 10,000m final, featuring Julia Bleasdale and Joanne Pavey.

TV: 10-10.40pm, BBC2

Additional coverage on BBCi