Greg Rutherford’s bobsleigh team-mates have heaped praise on the London 2012 long jump champion as he prepares for his World Cup debut this weekend.
The Olympic champion is attempting to become the first British athlete to win medals in both the summer and winter Games, and will be part of a five-man squad competing in Innsbruck-Igls on Sunday.
Two British men’s crews are looking to impress, and Rutherford is part of an experienced team headed by Lamin Deen. There is no guarantee he will push the sled this weekend, as one of Rutherford, Ben Simons, Toby Olubi and 2014 bronze medallist Joel Fearon will miss out.
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But the signs are good. Rutherford is not a publicity stunt - he has earned his place by coming through a series of tests, and his team-mates say he has made quite an impression.
“I'm more impressed with his banter, some of these guys from individual sports have got no banter, they can't last in a team environment but he's come in all guns blazing,” Fearon told Eurosport.
“Me and Greg get on like a house on fire. He's a knowledgeable, experienced athlete, he's been around and he's a very, very quick learner. Within the space of about three months he's been able to compete for his own spot and he's just in all-around good guy.
Bobsleigh is a bit of a tough, rough sport and he's literally taken it all on the chin like a champ and got on with it. But he's performed too, he's a very, very talented athlete.
Olubi agrees, and says he has taken to the sport without fear - at least, it feels that way.
“He's tried skeleton before, so he was slightly aware of what was to come and also, Greg is a good bluffer,” Olubi told Eurosport.
“I don't think Greg would ever say anything, he would just stay quiet. But then he will remember that he's a gold medal winning Olympian as well and I think that would spur him on, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
In Fearon, Deen’s team already have an athlete who has won a Winter Olympic medal, albeit retrospectively after two Russian teams from Sochi 2014 were disqualified for doping. Most of the squad have also have World Cup silver medals to their name. But Rutherford has won Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles, and that is rubbing off on those around him.
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“He's come with the gold medal attributes that you hear about an Olympian, but you don't really believe until you meet them in person,” said Olubi.
“Once you've met Greg in person, you understand how he got his gold medal. I'm hoping he brings a lot of that to our team. He's also got Igls first, that's a nice track, there are many worse tracks to come!”
“He can detach himself from the scary aspects of the sport...you can't be thinking I might die when I do this!” said Fearon.
“You have to put that fear away. That's the thing I'm most impressed with, his ability to just be the professional athlete that we know he is.
He thinks like a champion. There's no hesitation from him. If he makes a mistake, he's thinks 'right, what do I need to do to make it right?' He has a backup process in his mind that gets him through obstacles.
“I can imagine that he'll climb to the world stage very, very quickly, because of the way in which he processes things and just gets through them. There's no obstacle that he can't get around in his mind.”
To become a bobsledder, Rutherford has also had to transform his body. Gone is the lean long jumper - instead, as he will admit himself, he is bigger than he has ever been, and Fearon believes that shows his dedication to the sport.
“I'm not sure he could jump at all right now! Even though I bet now I've said that he'll take my challenge! But I'm like, no jumping for you mate, he's far too heavy now. He's fully committed himself.
“He's with a bunch of experienced guys and he's not messing about, he's trying to learn lessons himself. He just goes, 'what do we do here?', does it, and moves onto the next thing.
“He goes through the whole process as a massive list of boxes to tick, which has been very good, because he's made himself on par. We've been doing this for nearly 10 years - he's become competitive in a matter of months.”
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