The Bloke that Won the Long Jump


A few years from now you might be in a pub quiz…

On Saturday August 4th 2012 Britain won three golds in an hour in the Olympic stadium. Name the three gold medal winners.

Jessica Ennis, you’ll say instantly. The 10k…Mo Farah. Then you’ll pause. You’ll turn to the person sitting next to you. The other one, you’ll say. I can see him now. A bit ginger; had some strapping on his arm. Damn it, what was his name? The bloke that won the long jump. Gary something… Think it began with R. Gary Robinson?

Greg Rutherford, ladies and gentlemen. And now the dust has settled and we’ve all got our voices back I’d like to pay tribute to the most unsung member of the trio, and see what we can learn from his gold medal.

On Sunday morning I tapped Greg Rutherford Wiki into my laptop. His entry was 324 words long. The entry for Jessica Ennis – poster girl for the Games – was 3,080 words. This isn’t in any way to denigrate Jess; it’s to make the point that unless you were a die-hard athletics fan, Greg wasn’t on the radar before the Olympics. But to me, his gold medal is what the stunning achievements of Team GB are all about.

On Twitter – as of Sunday morning (presumably before a little updating) – this was Greg’s profile:

Olympian, ginger and a keen baker! aka The Ginger Wizard and sponsored by Nike, Maximuscle, Bullerwell and Co, Bedford Rotary. I jump into sand!

Bullerwell & Co are insurance brokers in Bedford. The Rotary Club is self-explanatory. Those are not multi-national sponsors. And good for Nike, but I doubt that Greg was at the top of their list where sponsorship was concerned.

Making a living from his sport? My guess is that Greg made as much from long-jumping in 2011 as that fine role model John Terry made in about three days.

And as Greg said in his interviews, he very nearly quit after Beijing in 2008. His career wasn’t going anywhere; he didn’t have a life; he was beginning to wonder if it was all worth it.

Fortunately he didn’t quit. To use a phrase that I used in an earlier post, he did what only he did best. He continued “to make good art” – and his “art” was the long jump.

In 2010 Greg won a silver at the Commonwealth Games with a jump of 8.22m. The following year he set a new personal best of 8.35m, equalling the British record. And then on Saturday August 4th he jumped 8.31m and won Olympic gold.

Persistence pays. And for Greg it paid off spectacularly. He carried on when it was almost certainly easier to give up: as the old saying goes, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” But for me there’s a more important lesson – and that’s why the paragraph above is so important.

Greg Rutherford won an Olympic gold with a jump of 8.31m – in fact his second best jump of 8.21m would have won the gold. He didn’t have to beat his personal best to win Gold, and he won with the shortest gold-medal winning jump since 1972.

So what? He still won a gold medal. He still heard the words (why do they sound so much better in French?) “Champion Olympique et medaille d’or…”

Sometimes you don’t need to be at your absolute best to win. To contradict everything I’ve said for two years, ‘good enough was good enough.’ But you have to be competing. You have to be in it to win it.

You may not think you have a chance of winning that contract – or persuading a multi-national company that they should deal with a small company in North Yorkshire. But if you don’t ask – if you’re not in the game – you’ll never know.

What did we learn from Greg? Do what only you do best. Be persistent – and above all, give yourself the chance to be successful. And who knows what the result will be?

But now, you deserve a break. I’m off to France for a week, and then TAB business is taking me to Denver. The blog will return – refreshed and hopefully a little bit tanned – on August 31st. Take care of yourselves until then.

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2 comments

  1. Simon Hudson · August 10, 2012

    Sometimes you just have to hang in there. No one can be at their best all the time and that applies to your competitors too. Maybe the day they are off form is not the day you break any records either but if you are better than them on that day you take the gold home…

  2. Dave Rawlings · August 10, 2012

    It’s easy to talk yourself out of attempting something because you know there are others much better than you. I have to keep reminding myself of the saying, “Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”

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