IT might have been a bit of a comedown from his Olympic gold medal winning exploits, but Greg Rutherford was overly hard on himself after his outing at the Diamond League meet in Birmingham on Sunday.
The charismatic long jump champion finished third at the Alexander Stadium with a best leap of 7.88m – a performance he described as “annoying” and “disappointing”.
Rutherford was beaten by Aleksandr Menkov of Russia, who jumped a best distance of 8.18m, and American Christian Taylor in his first competition since shooting to London 2012 stardom three week earlier.
A jump of 8.31m won the man from Bletchley Olympic gold, and it was probably the fact that he failed to get close to that distance again which understandably frustrated him most. But what might also have bothered him would have been the realisation that he is human after all.
Sitting out a couple of jumps because of a slight groin strain, Rutherford could have been forgiven for thinking that it was never going to be his day, taking on six of the London long jump finalists.
However, he should look at the positives – the biggest being the fact that he was able to perform to the best of his ability when it mattered most, in London on Saturday, August 4.
Regardless of what happens for the rest of the season, and for the rest of his athletics career, no one – or no injury – can take that night of glory away from him.
After the Birmingham meet – for which Rutherford admitted he hardly prepared for – he now sits third in the Diamond League standings behind Menkov and Australian Mitchell Watt, leading the way with one more round to go in Brussels on September 7.
The 25-year-old said last week that he still has eyes on setting a new personal best before the season is out. That mark, set in California back in May, currently stands at 8.35m – but it would surely take a super-human effort for him to reach that distance on the back of the last month, and all that it has taken out of him, both physically and mentally.
It was across the pond where Rutherford’s outstanding season began as he set the world lead jump and won two events before finishing top of the pile at an international meet in Morocco.
He soon recorded his second best jump of the year to win the Diamond League in Rome with a best of 8.32m – a performance that cemented his reputation as a potential medallist in London.
A comfortable victory at the UK Championships and Olympic Trials with a best jump of 8.12m then confirmed Rutherford’s place at the Games, and although one or two brief injury scares followed, he would go on to enjoy the best night of his life.
Rutherford admitted that his career is unlikely to see another incredible night like the won that earned him Olympic gold – but if the disappointed reaction to his performance in Birmingham is anything to go by, then he won’t be happy with just the one gold medal to show for his efforts.