Long jump champion Rutherford won't take family to Zika-hit Rio

Greg Rutherford is aiming to defend his long jump gold in Rio this summer. Ian Walton/Getty Images

Greg Rutherford has decided against taking his young family to the Rio Olympics due to the dangers of the Zika virus.

The Briton will be in Brazil this summer aiming to defend the long jump gold he won four years ago in London, but his partner Susie Verrill and 18-month-old son Milo will stay at home.

The Zika virus currently sweeping through South America has been linked to a rise in babies born with abnormally small heads and other brain defects, and Rutherford said he was not willing to risk the health of his family.

"It might be that not many people get the virus but it could also be that a lot do and we're not prepared to take that risk," Rutherford, 29, told the Daily Mail.

"It's a shame because there's a chance this might be my last Olympics depending on how my body performs over the next couple years and it would have been lovely to have the whole family out there.

"But we've got concerns about how dangerous it is. Susie and I would like to have more children in the future and if she caught Zika, you don't know how long you'd have to wait (before falling pregnant) and we don't yet know the real long-term effects of it."

Zika cases have been reported within 100 metres of Rio's main Olympic Park and Rutherford admitted he is likely to return home as soon as possible after his participation in the athletics events has finished.

The 29-year-old, however, is feeling confident heading into his third Olympics after undergoing a new form of genetically guided training, in which he was screened for 45 gene variants to assess his body's response to training and nutrition.

"I've always done very different training to other long jumpers," he said, "I do a lot of hill sprints and things you wouldn't usually expect and this confirmed I was doing the right thing for me.

"The big difference I've noticed in the last year, since understanding my genetic data, is a great improvement in my strength and power in the gym."