Speaking at the USA team press conference at London Stadium on Thursday (3), a slew of reigning and past world and Olympic champions, which included Allyson Felix, Christian Taylor, Ryan Crouser, Tianna Bartoletta and Jenny Simpson, expressed cautious optimism on the eve of their appearances at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
Taylor chasing world record
Christian Taylor has won two Olympic and two world titles in the triple jump but there is one omission on his otherwise imperious resume: the world record.
That record stands to Jonathan Edwards at 18.29m set at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg. Edwards was 29 when he bounded out to that historic mark and while Taylor - at 27 - still has time on his side, the reigning champion is itching to surpass that record.
“I’ve wanted the world record since Daegu,” Taylor said. “I’m a little disappointed it hasn’t happened yet but I believe this is my time. It would be very, very sweet to do it on Jonathan’s soil and I know he’s going to be watching. He keeps giving me little hints that could help me get to that distance.”
Taylor has approached Edwards’ world record in the past - most notably at the last World Championships in Beijing when he bounded out to 18.21m in the sixth round to seal the title and secure the US record. And if he secures the world record, Taylor has hinted such a feat might precipitate a switch to the 400m.
“I love the 400m - I’ve done it through high school but I do need this [world record]. It’s really why I’m here - I’m so frustrated I’m just short of it every year. I don’t take winning for granted and I love being on top of the podium but now this is the thing that is outstanding.”
While Taylor is relishing the chance to create history, Allyson Felix was sanguine on the prospect of becoming the most bemedalled athlete in World Championships history. Felix has already amounted 13 medals - a tally surpassed only by Merlene Ottey (14) and equalled by Usain Bolt - but she could potentially overtake both of them by claiming medals in the individual 400m and both relays.
“For me, I honestly don’t think about the medal tally and what it means in history,” said Felix, who claimed her first medal at the 2005 World Championships when she won the 200m. “I always take each year and focus on the goals and I figure when my career is done, I’ll look back and appreciate everything.”
Crouser, Bartoletta aim to back up Olympic gold
Ryan Crouser and Tianna Bartoletta also contributed to the United States’ bumper gold medal haul at the Olympic Games last summer and they were both confident of repeating at the World Championships.
“I’m pretty happy with my preparation, it’s been a really good season so far - I’m undefeated so I can’t complain,” said Crouser. “It’s my first full year as a professional so it’s been a learning curve. If I could throw a personal best, I would be happy with that but I would be extremely happy with a gold medal.”
Not only does Crouser lead the world lists with 22.65m, Crouser - like Taylor - has the ability to produce his best in the sixth round of competitions. In four of his eight competitions this year, Crouser has produced his best throw with his final effort.
“Those big throws - especially at the end - don’t happen on their own; there’s a lot of simulation training. Since I was in middle school, at the end of practice my dad would always mark my best throw of the day and say ‘it’s the last throw, you’ve got to beat your best on the day with your last throw.’ Having done that hundreds - if not in thousands of practices - it’s pretty routine so I know I can do it again,” he said.
Tianna Bartoletta pulled out a lifetime best of 7.14m in the sixth round to win the world title in Beijing two years ago before extending her PB to 7.17m to claim the Olympic title in Rio de Janeiro. In both finals, a seven metre-plus jump was necessary to reach the rostrum and Bartoletta is braced for another high quality competition.
“I believe it will be eerily similar to Rio. We’ll feel out the runway and get an idea of what sort of speed the runway can handle then rounds four, five and six will be pretty ridiculous,” said Bartoletta.
“Physically, Rana [Reider] has done an excellent job of peaking me for the right time. My speed is here - I know that based on Nationals it didn’t look like it was [Bartoletta didn’t reach the 100m final] but that’s part of the cycle - but I’m ready to go.”
Simpson counting on the unpredictability factor
Having raced in every major championships since 2007 when she first competed in the 3000m steeplechase in Osaka, Jenny Simpson brings a wealth of experience to the start-line for tomorrow night’s 1500m heats.
Simpson has claimed three medals from the last five major 1500m finals - including a gold medal in Daegu six years ago - and she believes her versatility could play to her advantage as she aims to claim her fourth major medal.
“For someone like myself, I feel like I can run a really strong and fast race if they get going and then I think I’m really threatening in a sit-and-kick race so for me, I like there’s the possibility it could be either way and a little bit of the unpredictability in the race really works in my favour because I can think on my feet.
“What would be most exciting in my mind is for a fast race to give the crowd something to cheer for - to give the crowd a real show so I think a sub-four race would be a lot of fun in the World Championships,” she said.
Steven Mills for the IAAF