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Strictly's Greg Rutherford drank until 5am aged 12 – to rebel against Jehovah's Witnesses

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STRICTLY star Greg Rutherford may be a gold medal winning Olympian, but his early years were less than clean-cut.


OLYMPIAN: Greg's life wasn't always so heroic

The 29-year-old has revealed that as a 12-year-old, he would stay out to 5am drinking and smoking to rebel against his Jehovah's Witness parents.

In his new book Unexpected: The Autobiography – serialised by The Sun – Greg said he grew up not being allowed to celebrate Christmas, Easter or Halloween, and wasn't even permitted to attend friends' birthday parties.

And his religious parents would respond to anything "moderately bad" with smacking.


DANCING SHOES: Greg is currently competing on Strictly

Greg said: "Our house was a volatile place, with a lot of shouting and smacking. My parents would have blazing rows.

"And far more often than I would have liked, I took the brunt of the fallout."

The tense atmosphere led to future athlete Greg rebelling from the age of just 12, when he said that he would pull all-nighters with friends, breaking into abandoned offices and trespassing on industrial estates.

Rutherford said: "We’d build a massive den, get drunk then wake up around 5am. Drinking, smoking, trespassing."


DIFFICULT: Greg went off the rails as a young teen

Greg also admitted to drinking Malibu in between classes as a teenager.

Things came to a head on Greg's 23rd birthday when he got into a fistfight outside an Oceana nightclub after thugs hit his brother.

However, he confessed that looking back at his dodgy decisions, he thinks he was a "complete d***", and added that his parents have completely changed.


FAMILY MAN: Greg and his partner Susie have a two-year-old son

The long-jump pro is now a father to two-year-old son Milo, who he shares with partner Susie Verrill.

Greg is currently competing with professional partner Natalie Lowe on Strictly Come Dancing.


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Greg Rutherford: ‘Strictly helped me to not dwell on the Rio Olympics’


Last month you were the ninth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing.

You seemed almost teary – how upset were you?

It was always going to be disappointing, because you want to go as far as you possibly can. It takes up all of your life: I was in the training room with Nat probably 10 to 12 hours a day most days. But equally, I could see there were better dancers than me. I was never kidding myself that I was some super-dancer who was going to set the floor alight.

You seemed unhappy to only win a bronze in the long jump at the Rio Olympics, after gold at London 2012. Did Strictlytake your mind off that?
Yeah, I think it helped me not dwell on what happened in Rio. I didn’t get the result I was really hoping for at the Olympics, and I said I’d either do nothing until Christmas, so I’d probably get very fat eating cakes, or I could learn a new skill. The only thing is that I’d said no to Strictly for the last few years because it wasn’t the right time, and when I finally agreed to do it, it just so happens that it’s the strongest group of dancers that have ever been on.

Who’s your money on then?
Oof, Danny [Mac] probably. He’s one of the greatest dancers ever on Strictly, he’s arguably as good as a lot of the pros. So if we’re just going on talent – if you’re the best, you normally win, that’s how it is in my sport – then him, but it’s down to the public vote. Louise [Redknapp] is exceptional as well, and Claudia [Fragapane] I think is wonderful.


Greg Rutherford and Natalie Lowe on Strictly Come Dancing

Most people first took notice of you on Super Saturday in 2012, when you, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah all won golds in 46 minutes. If you’d won on, say, a Monday afternoon, would you not have stuck in people’s heads?
Absolutely, 100%. Me being sandwiched between Jess and Mo is one of the best moments of my career and I was very, very lucky to share a night with two of Great Britain’s greatest ever athletes. I just basically managed to get on the back of that, I suppose. It was brilliant for me.

In your autobiography, Unexpected, you reveal you went off the rails a bit after London: the parties, freebies, waking up in the morning wanting a vodka. Is that an easy trap for an athlete to fall into?
Possibly. London was so massive, especially to somebody like me, who’d never experienced anything like that before, to suddenly be involved in one of the biggest nights in British sporting history. And I was made aware very quickly that people would forget you; that was something that a lot of people said. So yeah it was about making hay while the sun shines, and I did enjoy it. But by the time it did get to late December, three or four months after the Olympics, I felt I needed to go back to being an athlete again. I remember thinking, “This is hard work! I’m tired all the time.”

Did your success change you?
I had a very normal, basic upbringing and I hope more than anything that that stays with me for the rest of my life. But it was a massive shock not just for me, but for my family as well. You go from seeing your family quite regularly to being in and out of London all the time and leading a completely different lifestyle. One time I appeared on Celebrity Juice and it was quite a rude episode and my parents really struggled with that.

Didn’t Keith Lemon do a skit about “jump face or cum face”?
Yeah, I come from a religious background, so when somebody is making rude comments, they didn’t really know how to deal with that.

Your parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses – when did you realise you weren’t going to follow that path?
When I was about 12 or 13 I started to lose interest in that side of things. I just thought, “I’m going to make my own decisions, I have my own views.” I don’t follow a religion now, but I think it gave me a good sense of moral beliefs. I’ve taken that on to hopefully being a well-rounded, nice person.

As a child, you never celebrated Christmas or birthdays. Do you go overboard now?
It’s funny because we just celebrated my 30th birthday and a load of friends got together and we stayed at a place in Oxfordshire. There was a moment when the birthday cake got brought in and they sang Happy Birthday and it makes me feel so incredibly awkward still. So when I receive presents I get very awkward but I take such delight in giving people presents.

You recently put a long-jump pit in your back garden. What do you think that’s done to the value of your house?
That’s a very good question. I don’t think we’ll be here for ever, so how on earth am I going to market a long-jump pit in the garden? It’s a work tool for me, but for anybody else, I have no idea. I suppose it gives a young family somewhere to play and a flat area.

You’ve said that where other people eat ice-cream or watch TV, you buy dogs. What is it about them you find therapeutic?
They just love you no matter what. My first two, Murphy and Dexter, came along in 2007, when I wasn’t a particularly great or well-known athlete, and whenever I was struggling with things, I’d go home and they were just as happy to see me whether I’d done well or badly. So they’ve been instrumental in me being in the right frame of mind to go and succeed.

Unlike many top sportsmen, you don’t have a nickname. Do you have one we don’t know about?
Um, no, I don’t think I have a distinctive nickname. For a while it was the Ginger Wizard, because whenever I got badly injured, I’d still be able to come back quickly and do well in competitions. So I guess I’m looking for a nickname that will stick – can we try to find a good nickname that doesn’t just involve being called Ginge? Because if there’s one thing I hate it’s being called Ginge.

Unexpected by Greg Rutherford is out now (Simon & Schuster £20). To order a copy for £16.40 go tobookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

This article was written by Interview by Tim Lewis, for The Observer on Sunday 11th December 2016 09.00 Europe/London


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    • AudreyAnnaNana

      Status Update, just for fun...if anyone is bored and wants something to read, here are some communications that show one example of how a disfellowshipping works. The emails are not posted in order, you have to look at the dates to figure out the order it happened in.😊



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    • AudreyAnnaNana

      What an exciting evening! (Sorry if it rambles...)
      I was scared because I had to go into the "shark tank." Jehovah and Jesus went with me, and they totally rocked it!😆
      The COBE elder that kicked me out of the assembly a couple of weeks ago was so angry tonight! (He's kinda like Haman.)
      My husband is PIMI but he only attends about half the meetings. He calls me an apostate and gets mad if I say anything that isn't what the GB says. He didn't go to meeting tonight. I don't let my kids go to the KH unless I go, so the kids and I usually watch the meetings online. I didn't know if they would let me and the kids into the KH. (Since they just evicted us from the assembly a couple weeks ago at lunch because I talked to people and looked like I was happy and joyful.) As we were approaching the door of the KH tonight, the doorman saw me and let it slam shut and through the window I could see him, possibly looking for permission from an elder to see if I was "banned" or not. I knocked, and the visiting CO#2 cut in front of the doorman, opened up to let me in, escorting me right past the doorman! ("Jehovah Factor"😄)
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      The CO#2 was awesome, a really kind gentleman who acted like a shepherd. CO#1 didn't recognize me at first because during his last visit I didn't attend because I thought the trespassing ban was still in place (although it had been removed but the COBE conveniently forgot to tell me. I found out when I went to his house just before the Memorial to ask, since they never respond to any messages I send either by email or letter.)
      (Incidentally, I wrote in an earlier Status Update about my experiences running into the CO#1 at the assembly a couple of weeks ago...)
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      The meeting started shortly after. The kids and I sang heartily so everyone could hear our joy and affection for Jehovah. The hypocritical COBE was called up to pray. I did not bow my head. I kept my eyes open. That man is a snake. I refuse to say "Amen" to anything he has to say.
      During the Bible gems my kids got to comment. I put my hand up several times too, and everybody nearly had a heart attack. (Is there a rule that says a "disfellowshipped" person can't raise their hand?) Of course, they didn't call on me.
      The second song was a nice loud march. We've always been told to sing loud. I am obedient to that good counsel.
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      I went because I love Jehovah and I knew He wanted me to go to at least one of the CO visit days, to show my support to the "friends" that I know this is the organization Jehovah is going to clean and that I haven't left of my own accord. (They know about all the details of the sketchy stuff the fake elders did because I informed them of every sketchy thing the elders did to my kids and me.) Part of why I went was to show love for the congregation. Very soon they are going to be in complete shock. I love those people, even though they are all mostly brainwashed at present. They will have a rude awakening soon enough because the GB and the Bethels will be gone when the UN attacks and the congregations are going to need to be comforted. 
      A nice brother said the closing prayers, so I said "Amen" to that one nice and clear. (The poor brothers on the platform were right in front me, there was no one sitting in the row in front of us.) After the meeting, my kids chatted for a little bit with friends and then we were going to leave. I said "hi" to a few people (that really irritates the COBE, that's not why I do it, I do it because Jehovah said to encourage the brothers and we can't if we don't talk to them...) 
      When we were leaving, CO#1 pulled my son aside to talk to him for a minute. The CO wanted me to go away, but I stayed right there, because I think it's rude to cause divisions in a family like what he was doing. The CO attempted to talk to my son about homeschooling right in front of me as if I didn't exist. I wasn't having any of it. I let him do his thing for a minute, and then I told him he was causing divisions, and if he didn't respect Jehovah's arrangement for family (like not talking to the mom who is part of the family) that he wasn't welcome to talk to my son. The COs not good association. Then we walked away.
      My daughter was in the library with her friend and her friends parents and two aunts (one is the wife of an elder.) As soon as I walked in - hush! Everybody stopped talking. I walked by them and told my daughter's friend I loved her and gave her a hug (I used to take her out in service together with my kids). I looked at the people in the room and said "I love you, even though I know you hate me, except for you...I know you love me" to one sister who I know is kind and real. Then we left and on the way out gave the other doorman who is like a grandfather a big hug and he said goodbye and kept waving as we drove off.
      What an evening! (Thank you for any positive thoughts directed my way! Jehovah is the Hearer of Prayer, and He does things with style!)
      "You well know that Jehovah your God is the true God, the faithful God, keeping his covenant and loyal love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.  But those who hate him he will repay to their face with destruction. He will not be slow to deal with those who hate him; he will repay them to their face." (Deuteronomy 7:9,10)

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