Menkov & Rutherford face off at British indoors

Menkov and Rutherford jump to it
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Olympic champion Greg Rutherford, seen here jumping during the 2006 European Athletics Championships, will face world champion Aleksandr Menkov on Saturday at the British Athletics Indoor Grand Prix.

As the indoor season hots up in the weeks before the IAAF World Championships in Sopot, each event will give a little clue as to who might win gold.

But in Birmingham, England, on Saturday, the long jump will be a pointer to the summer as much as now.

It is there  at the British Athletics Indoor Grand Prix that Olympic champion Greg Rutherford faces world champion Aleksandr Menkov, and it will be the Great Britain star's only competition of the indoor season.

His eyes are already on the months ahead, with the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August closing in on the horizon.

By then, Russian Menkov could have another gold in his collection and as the pair meet on Saturday, the contrasts are immense in how their fortunes have changed since that balmy evening in London in 2012.

Rutherford was one of the three British gold medallists in less than an hour, his win sandwiched in between the triumphs of Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

Recovering from injury, he failed to deliver at the World Championships in Moscow but even if he had, would he have stopped Menkov?

In London, the Russian was second from last with a best of 7.78m as Rutherford won with 8.31m.

But 12 months on in Moscow, Rutherford did not make the final, the effects of a hamstring injury in Paris the previous month still taking its toll. Menkov had already established himself as the best in the world by then.

His year was so memorable, beginning with gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg in March, beating Rutherford into third as he triumphed at the European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead and then dominating the Diamond League, where he progressed to win his event for the second year in a row.

In Moscow, he was at his finest with a fifth round jump of 8.56m to triumph with a national record.

This winter has been no different. Menkov tops the world rankings with 8.30m and at this Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix on Saturday, he faces, among others, a fully-fit Rutherford and Mauro Vinicius Da Silva, the Brazilian who will be the defending champion in Sopot.

It should be a tremendous competition and Rutherford said: “The field looks incredible...and while this is my first competition since Moscow last summer, it'll be a great test to see where I'm at before preparing for the summer season.”