Greg Rutherford targets World Indoors after making winning return in Birmingham

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Former Olympic champion Greg Rutherford went from terrified to thrilled after putting his injury nightmare firmly behind him with victory in the long jump in the SPAR British Indoor Championships.

Rutherford’s first-round effort of 7.80 metres at Arena Birmingham was enough to get his comeback off to a winning start and keep him on track for the World Indoors at the same venue next month.

The 31-year-old does not have the qualifying standard of 8.19m but, as the host nation, Britain are permitted to enter one athlete in an event where there is not otherwise any representation.

Rutherford is due to compete in next weekend’s Indoor Grand Prix in Glasgow and will then decide whether to contest the World Indoors – the only global title he has yet to win.

“If they are still willing to put me in, I’ll feel through Glasgow and I’ll push it on a bit within the next week,” said Rutherford. “If all goes well, then why not?

“The long jump is always a very open event and I’ll have a home crowd on a runway that I quite enjoy. It will be an incredible turnaround if I make it.”

Rutherford competed just three times in 2017 and missed out on the chance to defend his World Championship title in London after undergoing groin and ankle operations.

“I was terrified about this competition,” he added. “Last night I was laying in bed wondering if I could do it, it’s been such a long time and so much has happened in the nine months since I jumped. So to do that I’m genuinely thrilled.

“If I’d jumped six metres I’d have been crying and announcing my retirement, but it’s near enough to eight metres to think I can still do it.

“When I had the ankle surgery the doctor said there’s absolutely no chance you’ll be ready to jump by the indoors and I only started walking again in mid-November, yet here I am.”

The men’s 60m final went from eight competitors to just five when 2014 world champion Richard Kilty withdrew, without giving a reason, before the start of the race and Confidence Lawson and Deji Tobais were then disqualified for a false start.

But CJ Ujah maintained his concentration to overcome a slow start to win in 6.56s, with Andrew Robertson taking second place in 6.62s, 0.01s inside the qualifying time.

“It’s never easy coming here and doing rounds but I think I showed my experience today and I just want to carry that into the (world) champs,” Ujah said.

Reigning European champion Asha Philip had an easier time in the women’s race, powering to victory in 7.12s ahead of Daryll Neita.

Andy Pozzi overcame a dreadful start to win the men’s 60m hurdles in 7.58s, while double European champion Laura Muir stormed to victory in the 3,000m, powering away from the field with three laps to go to win in eight minutes 46.71s.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the women’s long jump with a best of 6.71m but will target a medal in the pentathlon in the world indoors.

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