Rutherford qualifies for Olympic final after nervy qualification

Greg Rutherford
Greg Rutherford

Olympic champion Greg Rutherford left it late to qualify for the long jump final in Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Needing to clear 8.15m to automatically qualify, Rutherford watched on as American rival Jeff Henderson cleared the distance with his first jump.

But the reigning champion committed a huge foul jump first time out, 10cm over the board.

And he piled the pressure on with another foul with his second jump, this time just 3cm over but earning him a second red flag.

His third jump was legal but came up short of the automatic qualification mark, but at 7.90m was good enough for 10th place and a spot in tomorrow night’s final.

“Qualification can go either way - it can be fantastic, or it can be a nightmare like it was today,” Rutherford said afterwards.

“I didn’t get it right in the first two jumps in the warm-up. It’s a very fast runway, but I struggled. I needed to get a half decent jump in just to qualify. I took a lot of confidence in the first two, and the second was a marginal foul, but it was a good jump. I’m in a good place, and I’m through, and that’s the main thing.

“There’s always a lot of pressure when you do two fouls. I did that in Beijing, but I’ve got more experience now. I drew on everything, took a very, very safe approach and did what I needed to do.”

Rutherford became a household name with his win on ‘Super Saturday’ in 2012, taking gold alongside Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

And tomorrow’s long jump final will coincide with the finale of the heptathlon once again, with Ennis-Hill leading overnight ahead of Katerina Johnson-Thompson in fourth after breaking the British high-jump record.

And despite leaving it late to qualify, a confident Rutherford is expecting a big night again.

He said: “Tomorrow will be a different game. Now I know where to start on the runway properly, and hopefully we’ll see something special.

“I’ve seen how well Jess is doing and we’ve got Kat (Katerina Johnson-Thompson) bringing up the rear too - it’ll be a really special evening.”

Chinese Wang Jianan led the long jump qualification round with a jump of 8.24m, with Henderson clearing 8.20m and Uruguay’s Emiliano Lasa rounding out the top three with 8.14m.