The reigning World champion, Christian Taylor added the Olympic gold medal to his list of accolades with a season’s best 17.81m fourth round effort as he also became the first American to win the Triple Jump Olympic title since Kenny Harrison 16 years ago.
"It's such a blessing to share this moment with my family. I'm so honoured," said Taylor. "I have to thank my coach, my church. At the beginning I was a little anxious. My goal was to take Jonathan Edwards’ World record. I'm so honoured to be Olympic champion."
Will Claye, the Olympic bronze medallist in the Long Jump, made it a one-two for team USA in a repeat of the Barcelona Olympic Games 20 years ago while European champion Fabrizio Donato was a superb bronze medallist with a fourth round best of 17.48 just 14 centimetres ahead of compatriot Daniele Greco.
Jumping first, 21-year-old Claye set the tone from the very beginning of the competition when his first attempt landed well over the 17-metre line. However, the judges ruled it a foul and despite Claye’s vocal protest there was a visible mark on the plasticine.
As it turned out it mattered little for the man who also won the World Indoor Triple Jump gold medal in March as his second effort immediately snatched gold medal position from Donato’s massive 17.38, the only jump over 17 metres in round one.
But Claye’s effort was bigger to the naked eye and the bronze medallist from Daegu leapfrogged into first as the scoreboard flashed the figures 17.54.
The next athlete to make an impact was Greco, the Italian moving into third with a 17.34 second-round effort which placed him tentalisingly close to his older team-mate. But Donato was having the day of his life and backed his opening jump with 17.44 in round 2, 17.45 in round 3 and 17.48 in round 4!
Two other men broke 17 metres in round 2 with Beijing bronze medallist Leevan Sands moving into fourth at 17.19 and France’s former World Junior champion Benjamin Compaoré one place behind at 17.08.
Meanwhile, Taylor registered two fouls, his second one in the 17.70 range. Round 3 saw Taylor finally securing his place in the top 8 with a safe 17.15 which put him into fifth halfway through the final.
Claye had another big jump (17.43) and Sands also broke 17 metres (17.12) before the order was reversed. And that was when it all happened…
The first bang came after Taylor finally managed to get one right and take off from the board for the first time this evening. Taylor’s hop step and jump was a huge 17.81, the World season’s best performance and enough to go into the lead.
Up next, Sands suffered an extremely painful-looking injury, his knee collapsing on the final stage of his jump. Unable to move from the pit, no fewer than six medical staff assisted the unfortunate Bahamian who had to be stretched off the track.
At that point, the Triple Jump runway seemed to be jinxed with Greco, who had been pushed down to fourth, also aborting his fourth round attempt with what looked to be a cramp.
Jumping last, Claye had been dethroned from the lead and although he jumped his best of the evening, 17.62 would remain good enough for silver only.
With no further improvements in the final two rounds, it was time for Taylor’s well-deserved celebration. "It's an absolute blessing. My family from America are here, my family from Barbados have come here and it felt great."
Claye also had plenty to celebrate as he became the first man to medal in both horizontal events at an Olympic Games since Naoto Tajima’s gold in the Triple and bronze in the Long Jump back in 1936.
"Me and Christian got a one-two. It can't get any better than that. Going against Christian is amazing," he commented.
"We've grown up competing against one another but to do it here on the biggest stage in the world is incredible."