Rutherford all set for tears at emotional Birmingham farewell

Greg Rutherford is expecting the tears to flow in Birmingham this weekend as the British long jump legend prepares to experience a stadium for one last time.

The 31-year-old will hang up his running spikes at the end of this season owing to a long-standing ankle injury, instead swapping the field for the track of a velodrome as a cyclist.

It means his appearance at the Alexander Stadium will be the penultimate outing in front of home fans, and the last to take place at a large venue in the UK.

An emotional event is therefore in store for the Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion – admitting winning is not the biggest focus in this week’s Diamond League event.

“My body is not where it used to be sadly due to all the injuries, so I’m now into my last couple of competitions – including the last time I’m ever in a stadium,” he said.

“I’m there to wave to the crowd, meet the fans as opposed to trying to win – I’ve had to change my mindset dramatically over the past couple of months because my body can’t do what it used to.

“I have to make do with the fact that I can’t be the athlete I was before but I’m going to really enjoy these last couple of events.

“I imagine there will be a lot of tears, I easily cry at most things anyway so this is going to be very emotional.

“Birmingham is a very special place for me as well, I’ve won national titles there and jumped really well in the Diamond Leagues before, the crowds we get in Birmingham are really special.

“From that point of view it’s going to be emotional but I am looking forward to it, you’re so close to the fans that you can interact and have a good time.”

Waving goodbye has become a habit of Rutherford’s 2018, bidding farewell to the Olympic Stadium – the scene of his London 2012 Olympic gold medal – at this year’s Anniversary Games.

But his sporting journey is far from done just let as he looks to make the transition into track cycling, a challenge he knows is going to be far from easy.

It means an appearance in Birmingham on Saturday is as much of a hello as it is a goodbye, keen to give back to the fans who have given him so much.

“I’ve had some time to come to terms with it, none of this has been a snap decision – this was an accumulation of the fact that I couldn’t perform in jumping terms with the pain that I feel most days in my left ankle,” added Rutherford, who will take part in a number of parkrun events as part of UK Sport’s initiative to allow elite athletes to say thank you to the public for their support.

“From that point of view, I just want to go out and enjoy myself, I was very fortunate to have a really successful career when I was at my best and that’s something I can look back at and be very proud of.
“It’s exciting, for anyone who has been in sport a long time it’s easy to fall into the norm.

“Whereas the learning of any new skill is something that’s very exciting and that’s where I’m seeing track cycling, it’s a really exciting prospect and it’s a great thing to try anyway – even if I don’t carry it on.”

To thank the public for their support through playing The National Lottery, Britain’s top athletes will volunteer as tail walkers at parkrun events across the UK from 18 August to 9 September. Everyone is welcome at #teamparkrun – be part of it!