CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE makes the case for the country’s greatest ever long jumper to be considered as the 2014 SJA Sportsman of the Year
The memory of Super Saturday will always evoke broad smiles from British sports fans, as they recall that glorious golden hour in August 2012 in London’s Olympic Stadium.
Jessica Ennis blitzed her way to heptathlon gold and Mo Farah finished the night with an incredible run to clinch the 10,000 metres title. Sandwiched between, a surprise to most, was the historic third gold medal, by Greg Rutherford in the long jump.
Rutherford was largely unheralded, although he was already a silver medallist from the 2010 Commonwealth Games and had equalled Chris Tomlinson’s British record of 8.35 metres in California just two months before the Olympics.
Since that wondrous evening two years ago, though, Rutherford hasn’t quite got the breaks he might’ve thought a gold medal would have provided.
Injury ruined his world championship hopes last year, and the 28-year-old also revealed how his sponsorship contract with Nike had expired the previous December, with the sportswear giant offering him a reduced deal on terms he was unable to accept.
Sky Sports, Virgin Media, Santander and other sponsors lined up to back the other Olympic gold medal-winners. But Rutherford had no suitors whatsoever and was paying his mortgage with competition fees and TV appearances.
“It’s like being the best in the business and they tell you that they’ve brought along some intern and they’re going to pay him more than you purely because they might possibly do well in the future. Surely, that’s not how it should work?” he said in an interview published by the Telegraph in the middle of last year.
Rutherford appointed sprints trainer Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo as his new coach, a bold move that quickly paid off.
This year, at an early season meeting in California in April, Rutherford jumped a personal best of 8.51m – a British record.
Then, at the scintillating Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July, spurred on by the Hampden Park roar, Rutherford upgraded his Delhi 2010 finish to claim gold.
He was not done yet – weeks later and he was clutching gold once again at the European championships in Zurich.
After his Commonwealth Games win, Rutherford told the BBC, “It’s never an easy road, and after what happened last year with injury I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to carry on jumping. But now I’ve managed to win another title and that’s what it’s all about for me.
“I think a lot of people had written me off thinking I was a one-hit wonder. But I wanted to prove I could do it again.”
That is why, in my opinion, Rutherford should be the 2014 SJA Sportsman of the Year. His incredible achievements this year are even more impressive when you consider the context of the previous year.
The word “inspirational” is over-used these days, but you cannot say that Rutherford’s career would not be encouraging to fellow athletes. And that is why I am voting for Olympic, Commonwealth and European long jump champion Greg Rutherford as the 2014 SJA Sportsman of the Year.
- Voting is open for all SJA members to choose their Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year. Only SJA members are eligible to vote. Voting closes on Nov 28
- The winners will be announced at the 65th annual SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery and being staged in London on Dec 11
- Sarah Juggins: Why I’m voting for Jo Pavey
- Janine Self: Why I’m voting for Lewis Hamilton
- Steven Downes: Why I’m voting for the England women’s rugby team
- Philip Barker: Why I’m voting for Lizzy Yarnold
- Norman Giller: McIlroy and Pavey get my votes
- Anton Rippon: Why I’m voting for Dan Greaves
- Craig Lord: Why I’m voting for Adam Peaty
- Randall Northam: Why I’m voting for Jo Pavey
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. Join us: Click here for more details
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Thu Dec 11: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery, at the Grand Connaught Rooms
Mon Mar 23: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, sponsored by BT Sport, at the Grand Connaught Rooms. Entry forms will be available in October 2014
Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club