Having already competed at the Oslo, Birmingham and Shanghai IAAF Diamond League meetings this year, Rutherford explains how much it would mean to him to come away with the Diamond Race Trophy.
“It would be great to win the IAAF Diamond League trophy this season. It’s another one of those major accolades within the sport that establishes you as an athlete on the world-stage. Not many Brits have done it before". He recalled watching Philips winning the Diamond Race in 2011, "thinking how amazing it was that he’d won the Diamond League. To me that was a really big deal, and I’d like to do that and join that group of people.”
The Olympic and European Champion comments on how important the IAAF Diamond League is not just for athletes but more generally, the sport.
“I think with track and field, if you’re in the top 10 in the world you should be competing against all of your major competitors as much as possible. It’s good for the sport; for audiences to see such high-level competition, and it’s also a great way to gauge where you’re at. I’m not one to shy away from competing against the best in the world, so for me the Diamond League is crucial because I look for those big stages, and they’re the biggest competitions bar the Olympics and World Championships.”
Most IAAF Diamond League meets host the same level of competition as the World Championship finals, and this is something Rutherford uses as a way to gain experience and confidence throughout the season, ready for the major championships.
“The Diamond League can teach you to use nerves in the right way so that you can then go to big competitions and are already prepared in that way,” he says. “You start to get a good record when competing against big names, which when it’s regular, can definitely help with your confidence.”
This Saturday, Rutherford will be returning to compete at the Olympic stadium for the first time since 2012, after missing the Anniversary Games in 2013 due to a ruptured hamstring.
“I’m really excited. I get quite emotional walking out into any British meet, but I imagine I’ll also have a really special moment and lots of nostalgic emotions tomorrow. I’m hoping that with the home crowd and the experience I’ve got, I can channel it to jump really far again.”
In 2013 at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games, Aleksandr Menkov equalled the Brit’s stadium record of 8:31m.
“I’d like to push that out a bit further and take that back. I’ve jumped a few half decent jumps this season, but I’ve not got it right yet and tomorrow could be the perfect setting to do that, as jumping in front of a British crowd is always amazing for me. My son Milo will be there too – he’s my lucky charm. I have a 100 % record with him so far,” he laughs.
Triple-jumper Christian Taylor will also be competing in the long-jump tomorrow and Rutherford is rising to the occasion of jumping against another London 2012 Champion.
“He’s jumped 8.19m this year which is still pretty good, and he’s also going back to the stadium as an Olympic champion but I have a home crowd so I think the ball is in my court. You never know, he could go out there and jump 8.70m, but if he did that I would obviously go and jump 8.71m,” he smiles.
The British record-holder also expressed how excited he is by the men’s triple-jump in the IAAF Diamond League race this year, and how important it is for the future and the engagement of jumping as a discipline within the sport.
“The Long jump is great and it’s got a lot better this year, but I think for sure the triple-jump is the best Diamond Race of the season. The women’s 1500m in Monaco was outrageous, but the men’s triple is in another world – we’ve got 2 guys jumping over 18 so you’ve got to think about how few people have done that in history. They’re so close to jumping world records. From my point of view the men’s triple-jump is the new high-jump this season.
I think and I hope it means that more people will engage with the jumps, with the great high-jumping last year and the triple-jumping this year. It’d be nice to have the same thing with the long jump too in the next few years.”
Rutherford will be competing tomorrow in the long-jump against the likes of Christian Taylor, Michael Hartfield and Dendy Marquis at 3:35pm GMT.
Miriam Walker-Khan for the IAAF Diamond League