Christian Taylor at the US team press conference ahead of the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
Christian Taylor is back at the top of the triple jump. The US jumper won the world title in Daegu four years ago and followed that with an Olympic title in London in 2012, but after his fourth-place finish in Moscow in 2013 with some injury problems, he decided to make a big change.
Having previously taken off with his left leg in the long and triple jump, the 25-year-old switched to use his right leg prior to the 2014 season.
For those who did not know about the switch, it explains his relatively below-par marks at the beginning of last year. But jumping off a shortened approach in the triple jump, he still ended up with a 17.51m season’s best in Zurich in August.
Taylor, who is proud of his time spent at the University of Florida in Gainesville, used the early months of the 2014 season not just getting accustomed to his new jumping leg, but also doing something completely different; running the 400m.
Taylor clocked a 45.17 personal best in April 2014 and got selected for the IAAF World Relays 4x400m team. At the World Relays in The Bahamas, Taylor anchored United States in the heats before running the third leg for the winning team, finishing in 2:57.25. He described the event as “an experience of a lifetime”.
His jumping leg isn’t the only thing that has changed for Taylor. He moved from his training base in Britain to join his coach in Arnhem in the Netherlands, which he described as a good place to live.
In contrast to England, he says, the Netherlands is a sunnier place and he no longer feels jet lagged when competing in Europe.
Clearly the changes that he has made have worked well for him. Taylor reached 18 metres for the first time in just his second competition of the season, jumping 18.04m with his sixth and last attempt at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, where he finished second behind Pedro Pablo Pichardo’s 18.06m.
After this, Taylor competed four more times in the triple jump. All were big competitions and he has won all of them. In Lausanne in July he jumped beyond 18 metres twice in the same competition and won with 18.06m. Pichardo was a close second in Lausanne with 17.99m, but is still the world leader with his 18.08m in Havana in May.
The IAAF World Championships in Beijing will be the first time that two athletes who have jumped 18 metres during the same season will go head to head. To put into perspective how significant that is, there are only five athletes in history who have jumped beyond 18 metres in wind-legal conditions.
Asked about Jonathan Edwards’ 20-year-old world record of 18.29m, Taylor didn’t explicitly say whether he thought it would happen in Beijing, but he said: “It’s like the stars falling in line; you need the perfect wind, you need the perfect competition and competitors really going after it.
“I’m mentally tough and I’ve got competitors like Pichardo, who are pushing me literally every time I step on the track,” Taylor added of his best season to date. “I’m a competitor, I feel like I’m a lion at heart and I don’t like losing.”
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF