If field events were anywhere near as popular as those on the track, Triple Jump winner Christian Taylor and his close friend, training partner and rival Will Claye, who finished second to him on Thursday (9), would be as famous as the British middle distance runners, Seb Coe and Steve Ovett, from 30 years ago.
The Triple Jump pair, until recently long-time colleagues at the University of Florida, has dominated the event for the past couple of years, swapping victories at the highest level, in the same fashion as Coe and Ovett; yet their talent goes largely unremarked outside of athletics circles. It was a point that their gold medal colleague Brittney Reese had made the previous evening about the women’s Long Jump.
Claye, who had won a Long Jump bronze earlier in the week broadly agreed with Reese about event exposure, and raised a laugh when he described jumpers as 'sprinters with attitude’. Taylor preferred to accentuate the positive. "This feels great, it’s mission complete; we’re here now, it’s just blessing after blessing, we’re getting people to talk about the triple jump again, that’s a goal of ours, to get triple jump exposure. In the States it’s not as popular, so if we can get young kids out there jumping an encouraged and excited, then that’s only a good thing."
Taylor almost didn’t make the cut for the last three jumps. He began with two long fouls, before hitting a respectable distance for fifth place in the final eight. "I had a big foul, but that’s just as good as zero, it was a little nerve wracking at the beginning, but I said a little prayer, and collected my head, then really attacked it when I got to the finals."
"I’m just extremely blessed, I have to give it all to God, he’s the one who gives me strength; secondly I have to thank my coach, Rana Reider. We just work hard day in and day out, just having this in mind. I’m very emotional right now, everything is just hitting me…."
"Will and I, we’re not together right now, but we practice day in and day out, going back to Florida days, it’s just such a blessing sharing this moment with him and, again my coach."
Taylor and Claye are unusual in that they manage to stay close friends as well as intense rivals. It even stretches to staying close when they’re travelling on the circuit. "I think it’s peace of mind," said Taylor, "you’re not at home; sometimes it’s nice to have that guy you want to go out and eat with, or pray together. We have a strong belief in God; just having him with me is a blessing."
"Having Will as my rival, it’s like he’s my brother, so it’s big brother, little brother, we’re always going to be fighting, but at the end of the day, he’s my brother, we’re going to go home, shaking hands, hugging, it makes us better, there’s no beef. It’s business on the track, but it’s family outside."
"It’s great to be here with him, just like at the World Champs, and the 'nationals’. It’s interesting, that these are practically the same marks (distances) that we had in the NCAA. We’re here to compete and we’re here to stay. Every time we compete, we’re putting out best foot forward, I think the triple jump is hot right now, there are some big fouls out there. Having a competition like this pushes us all to another level, it’s bringing attention back to the Triple Jump, that’s what we’re working on."