MILTON Keynes long jumper Greg Rutherford admits that success at the World Athletics Championships is critical to his Olympic ambitions as he looks to fulfil his potential.
Rutherford is ranked ninth in the world this year with a season’s best leap of 8.27m in Paris last month – the same meeting that British training partner Chris Tomlinson erased his two-year-old national record of 8.30m.
After a breakthrough year Australia’s Mitchell Watt, two years younger than Rutherford, is well ahead of the rest of the world with his 8.54m best, but only 13 centimetres separates Rutherford from the next seven on the rankings.
The British record now stands at 8.35 and while Rutherford would love to win back the GB No. 1 spot, he’s also focused on topping the world’s best.
“Mitch has really stepped up and had a fantastic year and he’s the one to beat. You can see from the way he’s jumping that he can go much further,” said Rutherford.
“I know with looking at Mitch and looking at myself that there is not much difference at all and arguably in a lot of aspects I’m still a better athlete. I look at him and I look at myself and I think, he’s just getting it right.
“And he’s jumping fantastic and that excites me because in future years there’s going to be a lot of battles between us.”
It’s now five years since Rutherford’s breakthrough silver medal at the European Championships in Gothenburg, however he did repeat the trick at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last October.
And he believes his biggest jump yet is on the horizon, with UKA head coach Charles van Commenee targeting an ambitious seven medals from his team in Deagu.
“I definitely feel that I’ve never fulfilled the potential that I’ve had,” said Rutherford. “I was very late really coming through because it was 18 or 19 when I started as an international athlete and I didn’t come through the junior ranks and things.
“To be challenging for medals in London I think you need to be doing it this year. I don’t think there will be many around the medals next year who aren’t this year.
“I’m always disappointed if I don’t win to be totally honest. I always have a lot of self-belief, it’s not an arrogance but when I watch videos back and read the stats that are given to me, I know I can go much further, faster and better than anything I’ve done before.
“Mitch has been hitting some 8.40s and 8.50s this year and what the other guys are doing is great, but those are the sort of distances I should be doing week in, week out really.
“That comes with repetition of learning the correct way of doing it and that’s where I think I’m at right now.
“I believe I’m now learning to jump properly according to my body and hopefully I can come out and do something, really special.”
The long jump action for Rutherford begins with qualifying in the early hours of Thursday morning GB time (September 1) and the final takes place early Friday afternoon.
>> Rutherford has been selected for the Aviva GB&NI Team and is at an Aviva funded preparation camp in Ulsan, Korea. Aviva’s support, both at home and abroad, is helping the team prepare to compete at their best. To find out more, go to aviva.co.uk/athletics