Christian Taylor and Will Claye look, to this viewer, like two London medals. Phillips Idowu, the great British jumper, will make it an epic battle. In this piece, Roy Stevenson, tells us about the Olympic Trials triple jump, where Christian Taylor won, Will Claye took second, both on their first jumps!
By Roy Stevenson
The TJ proceedings got off to a great start when 2011 World Champs bronze medalist William Claye popped a 17.55m (57-07.00) on his first round. The Claye Vs Taylor rivalry had started early in the Olympic trials.
Said 2011 World Champs winner, Christian Taylor “I had to get my A Game real quick to make the team”. And indeed, his response was immediate: an excellent 17.63m (57-10.25) on his first jump, a world best for this season–one centimeter more than his 17.62m (57-9.75) at the Prefontaine Classic in June. His next jump was a foul.
Taylor passed his remaining four jumps, while keeping a close eye on his fellow competitor’s progress. “I just shut it down so I wasn’t taking any chances”, said Taylor, referring to the constant drizzle that could have caused problems with slipping, although he did say that was not a problem while he was jumping. “We had a lot of rain in our face”, he added.
William Claye followed with solid jumps of 17.28 and 17.29 in his next rounds, both good enough to qualify him again for London, but not enough to dethrone his close friend, Taylor. Then, Claye too called it a day, following Taylor’s example.
These two fierce competitors clearly had the measure of the rest of the triple jumpers, with triple U.S. Champion, two time Olympian, and World Champs gold medalist (2005) Walter Davis finishing a distant third in a non-qualifying 16.69m (54-09.25), leaving the talented duo to represent the U.S.A. in London. Davis is hanging his spikes up after this meet.
But 22-year old Taylor, and 21-year old Claye will not have the luxury of sitting on good early jumps in London–there will be too many other excellent triple jumpers with the potential to spring nasty surprises at any time in any round for Taylor and Claye to be able to relax–even if they hit the big one early.
But Taylor seems to have his head straight. “I know what I need to get on that Olympic victory stand”. Of English rival Phillips Ndowu he says, “I have great respect for my competitors, but my last phase is very good. At Daegu I held it for as long as possible”, which clearly worked fine, as he garnered the gold medal with a great leap of 17.96m (58-11.25).
“My goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics. As a competitor, I’m going out for the gold. I respect my competitors. I know the competition is going to be hot, but I’m going for the gold”, said Taylor after his victory.
And what does he think of the 18m barrier? Taylor considers the handful of people who have exceeded this distance to be “the true triple jumpers”. “I’m chasing that mark. I’m going to keep training, keep a clear head, and just get out there and jump. If it comes, it comes”.
The Taylor Vs Claye clashes are already becoming the stuff of legends.
At the end of a miraculous 2010 collegiate season competing against each other as University of Florida team mates, Taylor and Claye (who had recently transferred from Oklahoma) finished 1-2 in an epic triple jumping competition at the NCAA championships where they swapped the lead four times. It took a collegiate record by Taylor to defeat his friend in this showdown.
The duo continued their running battle at the World Champs in Daegu and came close to pulling off an identical finish, although English triple jumper Phillips Idowu slid into second between them on his 4th round. Taylor prevailed with a world leading 58-11 Â¼, Idowu 58-3 Â¾, and Claye 57-5.
Both Americans set their PRs last season, and look to be strong contenders for the 2012 Olympics, despite it being their first Olympic games. What is amazing about these two is how easily they have both made the transition from top line collegiate jumpers to the professional level, with Claye finishing 4th and Taylor finishing 7th in the 2011 Monaco Diamond League meet only a few weeks after the grueling collegiate season finished.
Taylor will compete in the long jump in the Monaco Diamond League meet, and then in the TJ at the London Crystal Palace meet.
“We’re going to go out there and do the best of our abilities. I’m going to try to clear my head. I’m realistic. I’m going to get my jump right. God willing, we will get it done”, says Christian Taylor.