But to the Great Britain long-jumper his Olympic gold was anything but a surprise.
Rutherford’s career timeline prior to this stunning breakthrough has been a catalogue of injuries, setbacks and some podium places, although never top spot.
But on the greatest night British athletics has ever seen, Rutherford, 25, insisted he was only delivering what he expected and was long-overdue.
“I believed in qualification I was the best long-jumper out there, even though I wasn’t even really hitting the board and it was good enough,” said Rutherford – whose leap of 8.31m was enough to give him gold, Britain's first long jump Olympic success since Lynn Davies in 1964.
“Once I had jumped the 8.21m in the second round that settled me down because I knew that was likely to put me in a medal position.
“For me I have had some horrible setbacks with injuries and I was picking up minor medals like Commonwealths and Europeans and that was never enough.
“It has never been about minor medals or not winning, it is about becoming Olympic champion and I managed to do it in London.”
Four years ago Rutherford saw illness scupper his chances in Beijing, while at last year’s World Championships the injury curse struck – a hamstring tear during qualifying.
However, after a winter of remodelling his technique – taking inspiration from three-time Olympic long-jump champion Carl Lewis – injuries are a thing of the past and medals, seemingly the future.
“I want to become double Olympic champion and five-time world medallist and then I might retire,” he added.
“I have said to myself that these five years, I want them to be my glory years. I want to be winning medals and to keep winning medals.
“I am never, ever going to settle for this. Of course, this night is probably going to be the greatest night of my life no matter what I do.
“But I am going to keep striving for more. I want to jump further and I should have jumped further because technically I was very, very poor.
“My coach kept reminding me of that to keep me settled but once I get it right people better watch out because I am going to go far."