World champion aiming to put on a long jump show for the crowds at the Arcadis Great CityGames
Greg Rutherford has always been an athlete who likes to interact with the crowds, to invite them into his sport and use their energy in the heat of competition.
The reigning world long jump champion realises, however, that it will never have been more important to reach out to the public than when he performs at the Arcadis Great CityGames in Manchester on Friday evening.
Given the horrendous terrorist attack to have been inflicted on the city earlier this week, Rutherford would have completely understood if a halt had been called to an event which takes his sport to the streets. However, he is delighted that this athletic show will go on and perhaps bring a little light to a place which was plunged into darkness.
“It’s fantastic that the event is going ahead,” said the 30-year-old 2012 Olympic champion. “The city of Manchester is a wonderful place. I come here a lot because I’m a Manchester United fan and sport in this city is hugely important. People really get behind it.
“I think what we’re all hoping for is that show of solidarity, that people will come out for the event and, even if they’re not athletics fans, they’ll do it just to show that people aren’t going to be scared by those nutters that are out there.
“From that point of view I think it’s a wonderful thing to do, to give people something to enjoy. In dark times it’s nice to have good people around to help and that’s what the people of Manchester are – really, really good people who want to enjoy sport.
“This place has a rich history of sport and we have two very big teams in the city that are not always friendly but, in this situation, everyone will come together. With the events of Monday night, it’s a great thing that people can come out and enjoy themselves.”
The chances of them being able to do that will be greatly enhanced by the approach of athletes like Rutherford, who intends to put on a show. Make no mistake, he’s here to win – as he did last year in the long jump competition which takes place at the pop-up arena in Manchester’s Albert Square. He does, however, approach the event with an extremely healthy sense of perspective.
“Fundamentally – and I think athletes can forget this at times – without the fans there is no sport, really. If you go to a competition and don’t want to speak to anybody, you have that look about you that isn’t very approachable, I think that’s wrong.
“Also, when you look at it, I run and jump into a sandpit. I’m very fortunate in that I’m one of the best in the world at it but still, I mean, it’s ridiculous. I’m not saving people’s lives or anything else so you have to be respectful of the fact that these people are turning out to watch you showcase the event – so interact with them, have some fun with them and enjoy it because, before you know it, you’re 30 like I am and you’re staring down the barrel of retirement in the next few years.
“I love this place and I love coming here. Hopefully Friday night will be a good night.”
Among those joining Rutherford in long jump action will be British champion Daniel Gardiner, while British record-holder Holly Bradshaw and Commonwealth silver medallist Sally Peake contest the pole vault.
On a specially-constructed track on the nearby Deansgate, Kim Collins will race against British sprinters Andrew Robertson, Joel Fearon and James Dasaolu over 100m, while Richard Kilty will take on the 150m distance.
Rio Olympic 4x100m bronze medallists Asha Philip and Desiree Henry will go from team-mates to opponents in the women’s 100m race and GB’s Jonnie Peacock is among those in T44 100m action. Marlou van Rhijn will compete in the women’s event.
London 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson, Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega and Britain’s Jack Green will be among those contesting the series of hurdles races.
» The Arcadis CityGames is free to attend and will be televised live on BBC2 from 6-7.30pm. See the May 25 edition of AW magazine for a more in-depth preview, including an event schedule