Rutherford tipped for London 2012 podium place

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MILTON Keynes’ greatest London 2012 medal hopeful has received a huge vote of confidence from a man who knows exactly what it takes to win Olympic gold.

Former Olympic triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards believes Greg Rutherford is the man to lead Great Britain’s charge for an assault on the London 2012 long-jump podium in little more than a year.

Rutherford has spent the past few years locked in an internal ‘Battle of Britain’ with rival Chris Tomlinson for the GB No.1 spot, as well as trying to overcome a number of injury troubles.

After taking the British long jump record off Tomlinson at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 – with what remains a career best leap of 8.30m – Rutherford looked to have seized the upper hand.

However, Tomlinson hit back at last year’s European Championships, profiting from Rutherford’s absence due to a foot injury to take the bronze medal in Barcelona.

But with the countdown to the London Games approaching the 12 months to go mark, Edwards – himself still the current triple-jump world record holder – believes Rutherford holds all the 2012 cards.

“With Chris and Greg we have got two world class long jumpers,” said Edwards, speaking at the London launch of Lloyds TSB National School Sport Week, which will involve four million children across Britain.

“Chris didn’t quite click at the European Team Championships, but either of Chris or Greg – on their day – could be in the mix for medals.

“For me I’m not convinced that Chris has got quite as big a jump in him as he says he has. 8.50m is probably distance that they need to be challenging and that is a long, long way. To me Greg has got more basic speed and is capable of jumping further.

“If you want to be jumping 8.50m, you need to be jumping 8.20 on a regular basis so that it’s your regular jump, and 8.50 is your big one.”

The Rutherford-Tomlinson showdown looks likely to rumble on at this summer’s World Championships in South Korea, and at next year’s showpiece in the capital.

Rutherford secured fifth place at the corresponding World Championship two years ago in Berlin, and Edwards believes it will be the 24-year-old from Bletchley, not Tomlinson from Middlesbrough, who will be challenging for the podium both this summer and in London.

“You’d probably pick Greg as the one more likely to succeed both at the World Championships this summer and then at London next year,” said Edwards who won Gold at the Sydney Games in 2000. “That is because he’s got that basic speed, and the capability of jumping further on the day.”

The World Championships is the final big competition for Olympic hopefuls, and gets underway at the Daegu Stadium on August 27, with Rutherford out to secure a third top international medal after claiming silver at both the European Championships in 2006 and Commonwealth Games in 2010.