Series01 Jun 2015

Personal bests – Will Claye


Will Claye in action in the long jump at the IAAF Continental Cup, Marrakech 2014 (© Getty Images)

USA’s Olympic silver medallist and 2012 world indoor champion Will Claye talks about the best things in his life as an athlete.

My best friend in athletics

I would say Tony McQuay (world 400m silver medallist) is like my little brother and Erik Kynard (Olympic high jump silver medallist) is like my big brother.

I first met Erik in 2009 when we were on the same Pan-Am junior team together. We both compete in jumping events and we are very similar terms of how we compete in that we show a lot of passion. When we are both out there competing at the same time, we feed off each other’s energy and that has really helped us both.

Tony and I were on the same team together at the University of Florida and we have experienced a lot together. He is always someone who definitely pushes me and I always like to surround myself with people who like to push me.

The best piece of coaching advice

That came from Dick Booth, my college coach in Florida, who always said: “give it all you’ve got,” whether at practise or at a meeting and regardless of your condition. This approach has always helped me over the years because I don’t always feel great every day, but it always pays to give it all you have.

There were days he used to destroy us at practise, but he used to say: “I guarantee that in a couple of hours you will be able to play basketball with your friends. Pain doesn’t last forever and a couple of hours later you won’t even feel it.”

My greatest rival

Christian Taylor (Olympic champion). We are close in age and even at high school – when we didn’t compete directly against each other – our marks went back and forth. Then since we started competing against each other at college we’ve had some amazing battles.

I know it is always going to be a good competition when we are both on the runway and we have both had our fair share of wins. We are like two heavyweights champions going blow for blow on that runway, but we also have so much love and respect for one another like two brothers.

My best achievement in athletics

I would say one of the biggest was competing at the London 2012 Olympics (Claye won a silver in the triple jump and bronze in the long jump). The London Games were the first time my family was able to watch me compete and to be able to share that moment with my family and see my mom’s emotions after the competition brought tears to me.

My other greatest achievement was winning the 2009 NCAA title on my 18th birthday. That was a real turning point for me and I feel after that win I took track more seriously.

My greatest disappointment

I would say last year in Zurich at the IAAF Diamond League final (Claye finished third with a best of 17.39m). I felt so prepared but for some reason that night I was drained of energy. I don’t know why things just didn’t click that day. And because it was the meeting that counted the most that season, that was very disappointing.

My greatest indulgence

Clothes and shoes. To dress well is important to me and I love that feeling of wearing an outfit and looking and feeling good. I try to express myself through my clothes. I feel like it is an art. I love shoes; I have a whole room in my house dedicated to shoes. Another indulgence of mine is music. To put on a record is a real escape for me.

My best ever jump

I’ve had two. I would say at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships (where Claye won gold) I jumped a foul over 18 metres. The other best jump is my PB of 17.75m last year at the US Championships in Sacramento. I took off about a foot behind the board, so my actual distance was much farther. Whenever I have a good jump, I can feel a burst of energy. It is almost like a surreal out-of-body experience.

The best athlete I have ever seen

Kirani James (Olympic 400m champion) is not only one of the greatest track and field athletes I’ve seen but one of the best people in general. I have huge respect for that guy and I know one day he is going to break the men’s 400m world record. I love the way he runs with such ease. I’ve seen him run a 400m and not even look like he was short of breath, whereas if I run a 200m it looks like I’ve just run a mile.

The best track venue

I love Hayward Field in Oregon. Some of my best jumps and competitions have come in Oregon. I love their knowledgeable fans and the support I receive. I also love Sacramento. It is a really bouncy track and I would love one day for them to host a jumps-only meeting.

My best achievement outside athletics

I am most proud of the influence I’ve had on youngsters. I may have medals and many other accomplishments but if I’m able to motivate kids and help them become the best person they can be, then that is all I can ask for.

Steve Landells for the IAAF