The failure of the Olympic Long Jump champion, Greg Rutherford, in the qualifying round at the World Championships has focused attention once again on what was the most controversial of selections for the GB Team for Moscow.
To recap, Greg Rutherford was selected as the only entrant for Team GB ahead of Chris Tomlinson, neither having attained the rather excessive “A” qualifying standard of 8.25m, but both having surpassed the “B” mark.
Only one of them could go, and both had been performing at similar levels this year, but Rutherford was injured five weeks prior to the World Championships, whereas Tomlinson was fit. The Olympic champion was obviously selected, much to Tomlinson’s chagrin.
In the Moscow qualifying round, Rutherford finished 14th with a leap of 7.87m, almost half a metre down on his (and Tomlinson’s) PB.
An extra two centimetres would have gained qualification, but Rutherford clearly wasn’t in the sort of form that saw him strike Olympic gold last year.
The injury wasn’t affecting him on the day however, according to Rutherford, but the lead in has hardly been ideal for him from a training point of view.
It is easy to see Tomlinson’s point that the Olympic champion was selected based on reputation rather than the more immediate circumstances, a point he made angrily on Twitter in the wake of Rutherford’s performance.
Rutherford’s argument is that he has beaten Tomlinson more often than not, he has the big competition track record, and he jumps further more regularly.
The key for me comes down to the rather high, or should I say long, standard set by the IAAF for this year’s Long Jump entry.
8.25m does seem a tad excessive in the current era. Last year’s Olympics was won with a jump not too much further than that, and it’s a long time since jumps edging towards nine metres have been a regular sight.
So was that really a suitable “A” standard in comparison to other events? I think not.
On the other hand, both Rutherford and Tomlinson are capable of beating that standard, and had one or both of them done so this season, then no debate would have been required. Put simply – achieve the standard, and get yourself on the team without discussion.
It is also intriguing to make a comparison between Rutherford’s situation and that of fellow 'Super Saturday' gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill. Both were injured in the build up to Moscow, but Ennis-Hill decided not to go if she couldn’t be competitive.
The situations are slightly different in that Rutherford isn’t a stand-out performer in his event like Ennis-Hill undoubtedly is, and so a poor performance from her may have been bigger news.
Then again she wasn’t going to be taking a place that someone else could have had.
It is a really tough one, and Rutherford and Tomlinson are so closely matched which just makes things harder. Frankly whoever had been chosen, there would have been criticism.
But it’s unfortunate for all concerned that Rutherford didn’t perform better as it only served to make the whole situation worse.
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