50 days and counting: Olympic wait almost over for Rutherford and co

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WITH just 50 days to go before the opening ceremony of London 2012, Greg Rutherford has reiterated his burning ambition to win Olympic gold, writes Simon Downes

The 25-year-old long-jumper has enjoyed a dream start to the most important season of his life and is set to go into the Games as one of the favourites to win a medal.

His career-best jump of 8.35m is the best in the world this year, and the man from Bletchley is showing fantastic consistency, having won last week’s Diamond League event in Rome with a leap of 8.32 – 12cm clear of his nearest rival.

And just before flying off to New York for his next taste of Diamond League action, Rutherford told the Citizen his plan is to leap 8.50m in the Olympic Stadium in London.

To put that into context, a jump of 8.34 won gold in Beijing in 2008.

“I know I can jump even bigger,” said Rutherford. “For me 8.35 isn’t good enough.

“I’m about where I should be for the time of year. I got the Olympic ‘A’ qualifying standard of 8.20 out the way early on, which was good, and I’ve jumped over 8.30 twice in a month. I’d never done that twice in a year before.

“I’m showing great consistency now. I have momentum behind me and if the Olympics was tomorrow I’d go into it very confident and in with a good chance of winning. It can’t come quick enough now.

“My aim is to win gold. For that to happen I’ll need to jump better, and hopefully reach 8.50. I believe I’m on course to do that this year. It could happen any time.”

Rutherford’s excellent form has coincided with a slight alteration in his jumping technique, leading to wins in the USA and Morocco, and fourth place in his opening Diamond League outing in Qatar.

Only his 7.98 jump in Doha has disappointed the former Denbigh School student this season, but he was quick to put that right, and is now focusing on a busy lead-up to the Games – starting in New York on Saturday where he is hoping to leap further than the 8.35 that saw him equal the British record.

“Everything went right that day, but with the new way I’m jumping, I’m still getting used to the feeling of really big jumps,” he said.

“That came at the end of a very good warm-weather training camp in Los Angeles. It was perfect, and it’s been a good run since.

“I’ve got the Olympic Trials and the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace coming up before I start a three-week training plan, taking me into the Games. I can’t wait.”

The long-jump qualifying takes place in London on the evening of Friday, August 3, with the final the following day.

Although he is already sure of selection, Rutherford is likely to compete at the Olympic Trials in Birmingham from June 22 when the best of British battle it out to try and book their places in the showpiece event of the year.

Among them should be javelin thrower Mervyn Luckwell whose place in Team GB is also safe, and 400m runner Chris Clarke who still has hopes of earning an individual spot, with his 4x400m relay place almost guaranteed.

His inclusion in the squad would take MK’s Olympic contingent to five, including table tennis player Andrew Baggaley and handball team captain Bobby White.