Men's long jump winner delights British fans, but notably falls short of longtime Olympic standard

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

LONDON – The men’s long jump created a slice of Olympic Games history on Saturday – for all the wrong reasons.

Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford delighted the crowd at the Olympic Stadium by claiming victory, but his winning distance was the worst performance by a Games gold medalist in the event for 40 years.

[Related: Jessica Ennis wins heptathlon gold for Britain]

Ever since Randy Williams of the United States took gold in Munich in 1972, every champion has jumped at least 8.34 meters, with a high point of Carl Lewis’ winning leap in Seoul in 1988 of 8.72.

Rutherford managed 8.31, recorded with his fourth jump, and deserves credit for holding his nerve amid a night where the host nation remarkably claimed three athletics golds – with Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and 10,000-meter runner Mo Farah also tasting victory.

Behind him though, the field underperformed dramatically. Mitchell Watt of Australia came in second with 8.16m, a mark that would not have been good enough for a medal in any of the eight previous Games. Will Claye of the United States finished in third with 8.12.

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The downturn in performance the long jump competition has confused athletics experts, and earlier this week even four-time champion Carl Lewis insisted that the final would see an improvement.

“I was happy to put in a solid jump, and I didn’t think it would be good enough,” said a jubilant Rutherford. “I thought it would get overtaken but obviously I was delighted when it held.

“It wasn’t easy out there, but I found a pretty good rhythm early on. That is about as satisfying as it gets.”

Competitors blamed the windy conditions for interfering with their run-ups and affecting the distances completed.

“It was tough to get into a good rhythm, and a lot of times you saw guys running up and just misjudging things a little bit,” said Watt.

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