Greg Rutherford’s bold aim of becoming the first British athlete to win a medal in both the summer and winter Olympics has taken a significant step closer when he was named to the GB bobsleigh squad, which will attempt to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Greg Rutherford joins the Great Britain bobsleigh team to pursue his Olympic goal.
Rutherford received the news, which will be announced later this week, after excelling in a series of tests at the British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association headquarters in Bath. He is now hard at work in preparation for his first event in Igls, Austria, in seven weeks.
“There were a few sceptics when I said I wanted to compete in the Winter Olympics in April, but I always back myself and believe in myself, and I am absolutely delighted to have been chosen,” said Rutherford, who won long jump gold in London in 2012 and bronze in Rio in 2016 before retiring from athletics in 2018. “I am really optimistic that we will qualify for Beijing and go on to accomplish something very special.”
To make the squad, the 34-year-old completed a series of timed tests earlier this month, which included pulling a heavy sled as quickly as possible using each of its four handles. “I was a little worried because I twisted my ankle while working at the Olympics in Tokyo, but on one of the handles, I was the second quickest in our entire squad, and third on two others,” he revealed. “That puts me on a sled, which is very exciting.”
What makes Rutherford’s storey even more remarkable is that he only began seriously considering competing in the Winter Olympics in February after speaking with double Olympic bobsleigh driver Lamin Deen and Great Britain bobsleigh coaches Steve Smith and John Herbert, who told him that his speed, power, and weight would be a huge asset.
Rutherford is part of Deen’s five-man team, which also includes sub-10 sprinter and 2014 Winter Olympics bronze medalist Joel Fearon, Ben Simons, and Toby Olubi. They will now seek to qualify for Beijing in both the two-man and four-man competitions, with Rutherford slated to compete in the four-man bob.To qualify for the Winter Olympics, Great Britain’s sleds must finish in the top 12 in three of the seven qualifying events, which conclude with the European Championships in San Moritz in January. But Rutherford believes it should be a formality, considering that Deen has already competed in two Olympics and, more importantly, has recently bought a fast new sled to replace his 15-year-old predecessor.
“Don’t forget Team GB won a medal in 2014 after the Russians were banned,” added Rutherford, whose tour will be turned into a documentary by Discovery in the coming months. “It wasn’t that long ago, yet nobody seems to remember it — everyone seems to remember Cool Runnings.
“However, there is a Cool Runnings motif for our team as well, considering that we are not supported by UK Sport and must work it all out on our own. And the best part is that there is a chance for a storybook ending.”
If Rutherford does make it to Beijing, he will be up against a stiff opponent in his attempt to make history. Only one athlete, Eddie Eagan of the United States, has ever won gold medals in both the summer and winter Olympics – as a light-heavyweight boxer in Antwerp in 1920 and in the four-man bobsleigh in Lake Placid in 1932 – and only four others have ever won medals in both the summer and winter Games.
Rutherford, on the other hand, is adamant that it is conceivable. “Every day from now to Beijing, I’ll be doing exactly what I did as a jumper,” he said. “I’ll be mentally preparing myself to try to win by repeating the rituals I did before London and Rio. I’m not here as a tourist. And this group isn’t simply going to make up numbers. We’re all hoping to do our absolute best and come away with something — something very, very special.”