By Ian Chadband
LONDON (Reuters) – World long jump champion Greg Rutherford will not defend his crown in London next month after being forced to withdraw from the championships through injury, British Athletics announced on Tuesday.
The former Olympic champion had been hoping to return to the stadium where he famously won his gold on ‘Super Saturday’ in 2012 but has had to admit defeat to a series of injury woes over the season. He said he felt “gutted” by having to pull out.
“In the last few days I have had to accept an unfortunate reality. I did everything I could, but a string of injuries at the worst possible time means I will be unable to defend my world title in London,” Rutherford said in a British Athletics statement.
“With an incredible start to the year in training, and very promising early season form, I have had a difficult series of setbacks as the season progressed.
“Most recently, a badly damaged ankle ligament and a sportsman’s hernia really put paid to my plans. The injuries have taken longer to heal than we hoped, and I have been unable to even jump at all in training, let alone compete.”
The news is a blow for the home challenge at the championships that begin on August 4.
The 30-year-old Rutherford, who won the world crown in Beijing two years ago, has been a serial medal winner for Britain at major events.
He really made his name at the London Olympics where he struck gold on the same Saturday night that distance runner Mo Farah and heptathlete Jessica Ennis were also victorious for Britain.
“I am truly gutted. That stadium is such a special place for me, I am so devastated that I won’t be competing in front of the best fans in the world, in the stadium that changed my life,” Rutherford said.
“But I’ll definitely be there to support my British team mates and soak up what will be an amazing atmosphere, and an amazing championships.
“My focus will now turn to 2018 and becoming a three-time European champion on the trot, something no long jumper has ever done before.”
Neil Black, British Athletics performance director, paid tribute to Rutherford, saying: “Greg is one of only a few British athletes to complete the ‘Grand Slam’ of medals (Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth golds), but that won’t make missing London any easier.
“He desperately wanted to defend his world title in front of the home crowd, but unfortunately his injury hasn’t cleared up in time and the hard but sensible decision had to be made to withdraw.”
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Ken Ferris)