Olympics-Rutherford's bobsleigh switch no publicity stunt, says pilot

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Diamond League - Birmingham Grand Prix

(Reuters) - London Olympics long jump champion Greg Rutherford's switch to bobsleigh is not a publicity stunt and the 34-year-old is making rapid progress in his bid to compete at next year's Beijing Winter Games, British pilot Lamin Deen said.

Rutherford, who retired from long jump competition in 2018 due to injury, secured a place on Britain's bobsleigh squad last month as he looks to become the country's first athlete to medal at both a Summer and Winter Olympics.

Deen is poised to steer the sled at the 2022 Winter Olympics and said he was "gobsmacked" by Rutherford's effort in training.

"At first, I was doubtful in the timeframe that he could make it, not just physically but everything that comes with it," Deen told British media.

"Greg went to work with the coaches and within a week he'd learned how to perform in a two-man sled. I was gobsmacked! Usually, it takes four or five sessions.

"First session he got it and just kept getting better. I thought, 'Wow, I've never seen anything like it'. People thought it was a publicity stunt but it isn't."

Rio bronze medallist Rutherford is looking to become the seventh athlete to medal at a Summer and Winter Games after Eddie Eagan, Jacob Tullin Thams, Christa Luding-Rothenburger, Clara Hughes, Lauryn Williams and Eddy Alvarez.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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