GREG Rutherford’s Olympic credentials were further underlined at the UK Trials on Saturday – not because he won the long-jump national title, but because doing so represented little more than another 2012 box ticked.
In very windy conditions, Rutherford easily beat his British rivals to win gold at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham with a third round best leap of 8.12m.
That was some way short of his season’s and personal best of 8.35m – still the longest jump in the world this year – but it was still good enough to see him finish well clear of second placed J.J Jegede (7.90m) and out of sorts rival Chris Tomlinson (7.89m) whose Olympic fate is now with the selectors.
Rutherford’s place in Team GB has been secure since he bettered the ‘A’ qualifying standard of 8.20m earlier this year and his UK title win was merely the icing on the cake.
And just to emphasise his domination, the man from Bletchley said he was unhappy at the performance that saw him win the national title for a fourth time, having also jumped 7.96, 8.03, 5.98, 7.79 and 8.01m in Birmingham on Saturday.
His fourth best effort on the day would still have been enough for UK gold. But Rutherford has bigger fish to fry these days, and was disappointed not to have maintained his early season form that saw him win the prestigious Diamond League meet in Rome last month with a best of 8.17m.
“I’m not particularly happy to be honest, but then I’m still getting over an illness after Rome,” said the 25-year-old. “I felt great and ready to go, I’ve qualified now and I’m looking forward to the Games.
“I wanted a lot more to be honest, but I’ve kept my unbeaten record at the nationals going now which is kind of nice. I just want to start pushing myself further now. I need to. 8.35m won’t be the longest jump by the end of the year, so it’s still work in progress.
“We had challenging conditions out there which didn’t make it ideal either, so we had a few run-up problems. It was OK. It was good to win. I went there to confirm my place, and I did that.”
Elsewhere, Chris Clarke’s hopes of individual Olympic selection may have come to an end after he failed to reach the 400m final, and then finished third in the 200m.
The 22-year-old clocked 46.41s to finish third in his 400m heat – not good enough to see him through as one of the fastest losers – but produced a stunning effort to win his 200m heat in a new personal best time of 20.60s, which was agonisingly close to the ‘A’ standard of 20.55s.
In an extremely tough final he then took bronze in 20.69s, putting himself in good stead for the forthcoming European Championships in Helsinki, but leaving him as an outsider for an individual place at London 2012 as he finished behind James Ellington and Christian Malcolm. He could still be selected, but only if he runs the ‘A’ standard in Finland later this week. He could also still be picked for the Olympic 4x400m relay team.
Clarke said: “I was hoping to qualify for the 400 final but it’s been a bad year in that distance. However, a time like that shouldn’t happen, looking at that now, it’s really painful to see it.
“It was such a tough field, so I feared I wouldn’t get to the final, but I was still confident. It just didn’t happen. That’s sport, it’s absolutely gutting but it was a really quick race.”
Meanwhile, Kadi Ann Thomas – competing on the biggest stage of her life – came third in her 200m heat by recording 23.88s, and then finished 7th in the final with 24.10s.
Javelin thrower Mervyn Luckwell missed out on the Trials because of a knee injury, but his London 2012 place was confirmed earlier this year when he bettered the Olympic ‘A’ standard by throwing 82.15m.
In his absence, Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club still had two representatives at the Trials as Michael Cox threw 65.70m for eighth place and Freddie Curtis reached 61.27m for 12th.