Rutherford makes it four of the best

Rutherford makes it four of the best
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Greg Rutherford the reigning Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European long jump champion, was competing at his best in 2015 with a stunning 8.41m to take gold in Beijing.

The Golden Track awards in Lausanne on Saturday will honour the European male and female Athletes of the Year and Rising Stars.

They will be presented at a televised gala evening and will be streamed live at www.european-athletics.org starting at 20:30 local time.

In the Male athlete category, Greg Rutherford is up against long-distance superstar Mo Farah, his Great Britain teammate, and Russia’s 110m hurdles world champion Sergey Shubenkov.

The long jumper is on the shortlist after another phenomenal summer, one where he secured his place in history.

This is his story…

Greg Rutherford completed a remarkable three years with victory in the long jump in Beijing - even if he had trouble digesting he was now part of a select club.

His triumph at the IAAF World Championships meant he holds all four major outdoor titles at his event at the same time, a feat achieved by only four other British athletes.

"These are the guys I grew up watching," said Rutherford as he took his place alongside Daley Thompson (decathlon), Linford Christie (100m), Sally Gunnell (400m hurdles) and Jonathan Edwards (triple jump) as an Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European champion.

"The names that are in there are some of the greatest in British history. It is very special. I didn’t even put myself with those guys."

But "with those guys" he is, and deservedly so after once more proving he is such a master of preparation and deliverance in the major championship.

Just a few weeks before Beijing, Rutherford had finished third (8.18m) at the Anniversary Games in London, back at the Olympic Stadium where he had famously won the first of those golds in 2012.

He did not panic. He knew he could raise his game. And he did just that to triumph and seal his place in history, 12 months on from winning the Commonwealth and European titles.

Rutherford's 8.29m from the fourth round was enough for gold in Zurich as he reestablished himself as the world's best long jumper following a disappointing 2013 season.

Yet it was a decade earlier where he began his path to this success when he won gold at the European Athletics Junior Championships in Kaunas at the age of 18 with a leap of 8.14m.

It was a national junior record and victory by a mammoth 41 centimetres, setting the tone for what lie ahead: an ability to nail brilliant distances when the heat is on.

Lynn Davies, Britain’s 1964 Olympic long jump champion, was in the Bird’s Nest Stadium to watch his triumph in August and summed Rutherford up perfectly.

Davies told the BBC: "He’s very good at seizing the opportunity on the biggest stage and he performed like an Olympic champion. It’s a great privilege to be here and see Greg join the likes of Thompson, Christie, Gunnell and Edwards in securing a Grand Slam of titles."

Rutherford now heads towards Saturday’s awards after a year where all he had to do was go into his back garden to practice – because his father, a builder, constructed a long jump runway and pit out there for him.

He so much wanted to complete that set of golds and he achieved it in with an old-fashioned one-two that even a boxer would have been proud of.

In the second round of the final he took the lead with 8.29m, a sucker-punch of a jump that blew away the field, and then in the fourth he delivered the knockout blow to the rest with 8.41m.

He did not even jump again, missing the fifth round and then officially being the champion by the sixth, when he was the last to go.

The celebrations could begin. Rutherford said: "It's unbelievable. This was my best ever performance."

But his glory was not over.

A week after Beijing, Rutherford was back at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich, the scene of his European gold in 2014, and he was triumphant again as a jump of 8.32m in the fifth round saw him win on the night and confirm him as the IAAF Diamond Race champion for the first time.