Greg Rutherford, Olympic long jump champ on Super Saturday, to retire

Greg Rutherford
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Greg Rutherford, who earned long jump gold as part of Great Britain’s “Super Saturday” at the London Olympics but has struggled with injuries in his early 30s, will retire after this season.

“At times I am in so much pain I can’t even sit on the floor and play with my two kids,” Rutherford said, according to the Guardian, noting he has had five ankle surgeries, plus procedures on his foot, groin and stomach. “I still feel I am fast. I still feel as if I am super strong. But whenever I try to sprint or jump I have to take three days off because I am limping so much. In the end it wears you down.

“I keep asking myself, what’s more important to me – trying to be a mediocre athlete holding on to past glories or moving on?”

Rutherford, a 31-year-old known for his ginger-red hair and clutch performances at major championships, said he will compete at the European Championships in August, then conclude his career at a Diamond League meet in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I’ve achieved so much but retirement comes early to those of us for whom sport is a livelihood,” was posted on Rutherford’s Instagram. “It only feels like yesterday I was winning my first major medal but now 12 years on, I sit here as the greatest long jumper Great Britain has ever had, one of the most successful in European history and someone ready to hang the spikes up for good.”

On Aug. 4, 2012, Rutherford earned long jump gold less than 10 minutes after countrywoman Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon and less than an hour before Mo Farah prevailed in the 10,000m. Ennis retired after taking silver at the Rio Games. Farah switched to marathons after last season.

Rutherford became the second British man to earn an Olympic long jump title after Lynn Davies in 1964.

He entered the Games as a medal favorite with the joint-farthest jump in the world that season. His winning jump in London, 8.31 meters (27 feet, 3 1/4 inches), was the shortest Olympic gold-medal distance since 1972.

Carl Lewis, a four-time Olympic long jump champion, criticized Rutherford’s generation of long jumpers (Rutherford was coached by Dan Pfaff, who worked with Lewis, and improved significantly in 2012 after changing his takeoff technique to mirror the U.S. legend.)

“[World-record holder] Mike [Powell] and me were jumping 28 feet regularly,” Lewis said in March 2016. “But this generation? Rutherford? I’m sorry, but it’s pathetic to me. He’s won everything. Are you kidding me? He’s doing his best. He’s jumping great. But he shouldn’t be winning with that.”

Rutherford went on to win his next three major championships — the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2014 Europeans and 2015 Worlds — and then took bronze in Rio (behind U.S. gold medalist Jeff Henderson).

“I’m the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European champion now,” Rutherford said at the 2015 Worlds. “I’m hoping that’s enough for people to accept I am a half-decent British athlete.”

In 2016, Rutherford said he was risking the hearing in his left ear for the rest of his life by continuing to jump. He developed cochlear hydrops, a rare ear disorder that left him partially deaf, after sustaining whiplash in competition.

“If the room falls silent all I hear is loud white noise, so it’s been a struggle to sleep,” Rutherford said then.

He missed the 2017 Worlds at the London Olympic Stadium with ankle ligament damage and a sports hernia. He has competed in four outdoor meets since Rio, none of them at the top international level.

Rutherford’s personal-best jump of 8.51 meters ranks him joint 23rd all time and sixth among European jumpers.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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I’m incredibly proud of my career. I’ve achieved so much but retirement comes early to those of us for whom sport is a livelihood. It only feels like yesterday I was winning my first major medal but now 12 years on, I sit here as the greatest long jumper Great Britain has ever had, one of the most successful in European history and someone ready to hang the spikes up for good. • I want to thank everyone who’s had a positive impact on my career (but I’d struggle to name everyone here) Most importantly, the greatest coach I could have ever wished for – @danpfaff. My full potential would never have been reached and that Olympic gold medal would never have been won, if it wasn't for his guidance and input. • I’m going to go for the European Championships one final time. And then I’ll also be jumping in Birmingham and London for the Diamond Leagues. If you fancy coming to watch me compete one last time then please do come on down and give me a wave. It'd be so great to finish with some roaring crowds. • Thank you for all your love and support over the years. It’s been a blast & your kind comments have always given me a push in the right direction. • Grab the @guardian tomorrow to see my exclusive interview with Sean Ingle; we go in to my decision/future plans in further detail there. • @susiejverrill @andrewsteele @aurumsportsgroup @drgerryramogida @andyjburkeuk @melvintann27 @nike … Thank you so much for you help.

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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