If it was not for Montell Douglas, would Greg Rutherford have been part of Super Saturday? Would the long jump star be an Olympic gold medallist? Could he be looking to make Olympic history?
These are not necessarily questions Douglas will admit to, but speaking to Eurosport, it is clear she has played a key role at a crucial time of Rutherford’s career - and now they could be lining up together on the same British bobsleigh team at the Beijing Winter Olympics - almost 14 years after they became Olympians.
Back then, Douglas was a promising sprinter and Rutherford had demonstrated his potential with a European silver medal. But in 2008, Rutherford’s build-up to the Games was overshadowed by personal tragedy, with the diagnosis that his grandfather had cancer. The Eurosport pundit spoke openly during Tokyo 2020 about the effect that had on him.
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“Nobody understands the Olympic journey of each individual athlete. All of them would have been very different. All of them would have had serious hardships at times,” he said in July.
“I think of my own career, my first Olympics was in 2008. Just before I left, I had a situation where I had a bereavement in the family. I lost a really important member in my family and I still travelled out to the Games. I didn’t get to go to the funeral, I was in a very dark place.
“I travelled out to the Olympic Games, managed to make the final, then the morning of the final I woke up in a really bad place with regards to illness and my mental health. I ended up crashing out in the Olympic final and the following night rushed to hospital because I’d collapsed back in the village.”
The best moment of Rutherford’s sporting career had turned into an ordeal and Douglas recalls how conversations she had with him at the time.
“I remember in 2008 I had to stop him from leaving the Games, he'd had a bad time, he thought it was the end of his career,” she told Eurosport.
I had to keep him in the village, because he was like, I want to go home, I've had enough. We've had that bond together at a completely different time of our lives but now we're in a completely different space.
“Here we are now, it's come full circle and it's quite funny really - I actually think it's quite beautiful and I hope that's true for both of us. You never know what's going to happen, both physically and mentally you've got to keep your head in the game and focus on the task at hand.”
Douglas is attempting to qualify for the Games with Mica McNeil, while Rutherford is hoping to shrug off injury to finally make his World Cup debut in Lamin Dean’s four man team. Niggles have prevented him from doing that so far, but he dreams of winning summer and winter medals, and his former track and field team-mate is not surprised he has risen to an elite bobsleigh level so quickly.
“Greg was always one of the people in the back of the mind that I definitely thought could get on a sled because not every athlete comes from sprinting.
“He's a very fast jumper, he used to be able to run something like 10.3s (over 100m). Getting on the sled, it's another matter but he's so excited and I really thought he'd take to it. I remember us having a conversation (in 2008) about how it be great if we were both there (in 2022).”

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Douglas is one of a long line of sprinters who have moved into a sliding sport, and she says it has prolonged her career - giving her a new opportunity at a late stage of her elite sporting life.
“I was asked a few times to give the team a go, the first time was probably in 2014, but I was still very much into track.
“I just went to do the testing, lots of sprints with a sled, and I got like, 1000 points - it had never been done before. I was like, is that good?! And they said... that's really good. Six months down the line, I was at my first World Cup.”
Douglas was a travelling reserve for Pyeongchang 2018, but this time she is on course to make the team for real. Outside of bobsleigh, she works for a young people’s charity in Enfield - a job she says keeps her grounded and appreciate how lucky she is to have had the career she has had.
“I was 29 when I came into bobsleigh, which is late in most sports, but it's given me the opportunity to extend my career by essentially starting a new one,” she said.
I came in and I wanted to be better, I wanted to know how to do that. I've had to hone my craft, watch some of the best bobsledders in the world and know what to do to put the team in a good place. I'm still learning, you never stop learning. If you have that mindset, that's when you can be successful.
“Going to Beijing, it would be the icing on the cake. Everyone wants to be an Olympian, I've had the pleasure of doing that - once an Olympian, always an Olympian - it means a lot to me.
“For anyone who thinks their dreams are dead when they get older - it's not true. It's a privilege to be in this position, if I am there, it would mean a lot not just for myself, but for a lot of people around me.”
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