By Steven Downes
Britain’s Greg Rutherford completed a full-house of major titles on Tuesday when he added world gold to his Olympic, Commonwealth and European long jump crowns at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
Rutherford had such a bad headache a few hours before the final that he feared he would be unable to compete.
“By 2 o’clock this afternoon, I thought, ‘Flipping heck, I’m not going to be able to jump, I feel so rough’,” he told reporters.
By the end of the evening, it was Rutherford’s rivals whose heads were spinning.
“Adrenalin’s a wonderful thing,” he said. “Here I am and I’ve finally won a world title. Fifth time lucky. Finally got what I wanted.”
The 28-year-old Briton dominated the competition and won with a best effort of 8.41 metres in the fourth round
His task was made easier when American Jeff Henderson, who tops the 2015 world rankings, crashed out after three rounds having registered only one good jump, of 7.95m, to finish outside the top eight.
The silver medal was won by Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre with a season’s best 8.24 in the sixth round to overtake China’s Wang Jianan, who jumped 8.18 in round two.
Chinese jumpers Gao Xinglong (8.14m) and Li Jinzhe (8.10m) finished fourth and fifth.
This event appeared to be one of the most open of the championships and the Beijing public turned out in huge numbers hoping to see a medal for the host nation.
The roars of the crowd seemed to carry Wang and Gao on a wave of inspiration and they both registered first-round jumps of 8.14 metres to take the joint lead.
Rutherford fouled his first effort but seized control of the competition with 8.29 in the second. After a further foul in the third round, Rutherford consulted his coach, American Dan Pfaff.
“Dan basically told me after the third round, ‘What on earth are you playing at, why are you fouling such massive jumps? Just get one in and close the night’. And the next round, I managed to catch one.”
That was an 8.41 season’s best for the Briton, whose quest for the world title had seen him build a long jump pit in the garden of his home.
Rutherford joined an illustrious quartet of British athletes who have simultaneously held Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles in their events – Daley Thompson, Sally Gunnell, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie.
An emotional Rutherford said it was possibly his best championship performance.
“There’s been stresses this year that I can even explain to you. It’s been really, really tough at points and to come out and do that, I’m over the moon.”
Three years ago, Rutherford had been one of three British gold medals on ‘Super Saturday’ during the London Olympics, but his victory was less widely recognised than those of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah – also winners in Beijing this week.
His winning jump of 8.31 was the shortest gold medal-winning mark since 1976.
“I’m hoping 8.41 is acceptable to some people this time,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure it’s a stadium record, that’s not so bad, I’ll take that. I’m not too bad a long jumper.”