Will Claye: New York-Will Will? by Elliott Denman

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Elliott Denman revised his Will Claye piece from this weekend to highlight Will's huge triple jump in the Armory and the significance of Will's triple jump and long jump medals in Moscow! 

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WILL CLAYE STORY/
REVISED TO INCLUDE
New Balance Games Results
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
 
    
    By ELLIOTT DENMAN
   NEW YORK -  Will Will?
 
   Well, why not?
 
   Not since 1904 has the same man - that was New Yorker Meyer Prinstein - sprang to double gold in the long and triple jumps at the Olympic Games.
 
  Well, Will Claye sees no real reason why he can't turn back
the track and field clocks and transform himself into the
new edition of Meyer Prinstein.
 
   With a hop-step-jump of 17.04 meters / 55 feet, 9 3/4 inches at the 19th annual New Balance Games at the Armory Track and Field Center last Saturday afternoon (Jan. 25), Claye triple-leaped to the tip-top of the IAAF's 2014 year list and straight into the archives of the iconic Armory facility.
 
   Earlier last week, Claye told media delegates that he had no idea that Tim Rusan's triple jump of 17.01 meters/ 55 feet, 9 3/4 inches back in 2002 at the USA Indoor Nationals was the best ever achieved at the Armory.
 
  Now they can call the Rusan mark "best ever previously achieved."
 
  In the only field event specifically for the pros at the New Balance Games, Claye got off a good one.
 
  The 17.04 immediately put the former U. of Florida performer  atop the IAAF list and propelled his closest pursuers right up there behind him.

   Second-placer and Iowa grad Troy Doris (bounding 16.81/ 55-2) and third-placer Chris Benard, the Arizona State alum (who went 16.76 / 55-0) moved up to 2-3 on the IAAF list, too.
 
  And not that far back at 16.40 / 53-9 3/4 was Florida's
Omar Craddock.  Fourth at the Armory, he's now seventh in the world.
 
 All in all, the New Balance TJ was a rousing good show for the Armory audience (primarily high schoolers in the cast of over 5,800 entries) and surely inspired some of those young talents into resolving "I could be pretty good at that event, too."
 
  They got some good clapping done - to Claye's syncopated
encouragement - as the event moved right along.
 
   All at once, it was great theater as well as superb athleticism.
 
  Coming in, Claye had no idea of Rusan's existing
Armory standard.
 
  But he made a pretty good prediction of where that
Armory best-ever would stand by the time he got done late that
Saturday night.
 
     "Yes, I definitely think I can take that ( Rusan record) down," Claye said at an Armory press conference Thursday.
    Yes, first take it down and then raise it up to somewhere in the event's stratosphere.
 
     The Armory runway is good and fast. And Claye was as good as his word.
    The Armory Track Center's top brass - led by the visionary Dr. Norbert Sander - has forever thought out of the box. Thus, the New Balance Games at the historic Washington Heights venue featured footracing at all the standard distances, of course, but the indoor steeplechase and 1500-meter racewalk as well.
 
   Claye, the Arizona-reared, Oklahoma and Florida-trained, 22-year-old bundle of bounce,surely deserves to be in his sport's spotlight.  After all, when he took the silver medal in the triple jump and the bronze in the long jump at the 2012 London Olympic Games, he was the first man to turn the two-medal, horizontal-jump trick at the Games in 76 years.

   Don't you remember?

   Naoto Tajima of Japan took the gold in the triple jump and the bronze in the long jump (back of Jesse Owens and Luz Long) at Berlin in 1936.

   Before that - according to my quick research - there were only four more.

     Chuhei Nambu had preceded countryman Tajima as Olympic triple jump king, and also took the bronze in the long jump, at Los Angeles in 1932.

   The 1906 Athens Games - while "official" to many historians but still "unofficial" to the International Olympic Committee - saw Peter O'Connor, an Irishman competing (under vigorous protest) for Great Britain, strike gold in the triple and silver in the long.

   Thus, the honor of being the only man man ever to win both horizontals at the same Games remains the property of New Yorker/Syracuse grad Meyer Prinstein.

  He LJed  (7.34/ 24-1) and TJed (14.35 / 47-1) to his double
golds, both on the same day, September 1, 1904 in St. Louis.

  He'd won the LJ but settled for the silver in the TJ (back of U.S. teammate Alvin Kraenzlin in an old and controversial story) at the Paris Games of 1900.

  The first Modern Games saw U.S.'s James Connolly win the TJ and place third in the LJ at Athens in 1896.

   So there you have it - the roster of LJ/TJ doublers: Six men - Claye, Tajima, Nambu, Prinstein, O'Connor and Connolly.

  As you can see - as the old expression goes - nobody had done it for us lately, until Will Claye in London.

  His plans for the USA Indoor Nationals, Feb. 22-23 in Albuquerque, (the qualifier for the World Indoor Championships March 7-8-9 in Sopot, Poland) are the same as his plans for the 2016 Rio deJaneiro Olympic Games.

  "Yes, I'll do them both, just as I usually do."

  Sure he'd like to get his TJ somewhere closer to
Great Briton Jonathan Edwards' world record of 18.29 meters / 60 feet and a quarter-inch in 1995.

   And his long jump PR a bit closer to Mike Powell's 1991 WR of 8.95 / 29-4 1/2.
  Heading into the 2014 campaign, Claye's bests are 8.29 / 26-10 1/2 in the long and 17.70 / 58-1 in the triple.

   "I'm no Usain Bolt, but I'm a decent sprinter," he said. "My 100-meter PR is 10.5.

  "I know that if I want to jump farther, I've got to be a better sprinter first.

  "In middle school (growing up in the Phoenix area) I was a football player; I'd just run away from everybody."

  Soon he was recruited to the track team, too, and said his goodbyes to football after graduation from Mountain Pointe High School.

  Next stop was the University of Oklahoma, then a transfer to the University of Florida, followed by a move into the pro ranks in the buildup to the London Games.
   The plan worked to perfection - almost.

   He did get to mount the podium twice - but neither time to the top rung.

   His Florida buddy, Christian Taylor, took the gold in the TJ and Britain's Greg Rutherford won the LJ.

  Now, Claye has been reunited with his early-days coach, Jeremy Fischer, and all has been working out handsomely.

  And when Fischer can't be there, Claye is happy knowing that "he has coached me into being my own coach."

  He's viewed - and reviewed and re-reviewed and re-re-reviewed videos of Jonathan Edwards' 1995 world-record TJ in Goteborg "over 100 times, maybe more" and keeps picking it apart for the nuggets of data that he expects will get him into that range, too.

   Before too long.

   Edwards aimed for nearly equal 20-20-20 (foot) segments in his flight past 60 feet.  Claye's working on his own 19-18-22 plan.

   He's young and able, determined and dedicated. He'll be jumping "just about every weekend" this indoor season.

  Something's bound to pop, and soon.

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