Kenturah Orji, photo by PhotoRun.net
The men’s and women’s triple jumps were fine competitions. They also were fine events for the U.S. as Christian Taylor and Wille Claye both defended their gold and silver medals from London with medals of the same color in Rio! In the women’s triple jump, Kenturah Orji gave the U.S. their finest performance ever in women’s event, plus a new, very respectable AR! Here’s Elliott Denman on the triple jump, and it is a fun piece!
ATTENTION BOYS AND GIRLS OF AMERICA: LET’S DO THE HOP, SKIP AND JUMP.
Kids of America, we sure hope you were watching.
Boys and girls, we sure hope you got to check out Christian Taylor, Will Claye and Keturah Orji in action at Estadio Olimpico.
They were agile, athletic, astounding. Sensational and sizzling.
They not only doubled the fun for all of us at the Games, they tripled it.
They did it playing the old-older-oldest of children’s street games – the hop, skip and jump.
And making all of us proud along the way.
Taylor and Claye placed 1-2 in the men’s version of “El Triplo” for a second straight Games. Taylor’s winning jump came in round one; he and Claye would far outclass the rest of the world the rest of the way.
And Orji showed us that this wasn’t just a boys game.
For eons, it seems, American women have never been able to catch on to the knack of getting this thing done right.
It took a bright young lady out of New Jersey and now Georgia (the University of, to be precise), Keturah Orji, to show us that a U.S. female athlete selecting the triple as her sporting specialty wasn’t embarking on a mission Impossible.
Keturah – biblically named, for the third wife of Abraham – not only smashed her own American record but came within a silly three centimeters of actually placing third and medaling, which would have translated in any language – which they do routinely here at the Games -into a big slice of American athletic history.
The best any American woman had ever finished in the triple, which has been on the Olympic program for women since 1984, was 10th.
Taylor’s ties over the years have been to New York, Georgia and Florida (the University of, where he and Claye were teammates.) Now, global notable that he is, those ties go Trans-Atlantic, to England and The Netherlands, as he follows the workaday assignments of his renowned coach, Rana Rieder.
Double Dutch? No, Taylor triples it.
Will Claye’s ties over the years have been to Arizona, Florida (with Taylor) and Oklahoma.
He’s more than OK, too. While he couldn’t match Taylor for a second straight Games – the margin between them was just ten centimeters – he’s not giving up the chase, either.
Both frown on the mere thought of giving this thing up without at least one more Olympic Games in their resumes. Both have already vowed to be in Tokyo in 2020 – and what a perfect vision that would be.
Speaking of vows, Claye traveled in that direction here, too. At some point in his personal road to Rio, he’d packed an engagement ring in his luggage.
And he then presented it to his beloved, the hurdler Queen Harrison, after his podium appearance for the silver.
Obvious moral of this story-within-a-story: Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.
For the two-time silver medalist, this will be no short-term relationship.
It’s the real thing. She will not be his Queen for a day.
Many American track and field fans of more recent vintage can tell you of the
exploits of such as Al Joyner, Mike Conley, and Kenny Harrison.
Just in case not, we’ll remind you that Al Joyner (brother of the great Jackie; widower of the late-great Flo-Jo) struck gold at Los Angeles in 1984; Mike Conley won at Barcelona in 1992, and Kenny Harrison set the still-standing Olympic record with his win at Atlanta in 1996.
“Sure, I’m aware of all of them, and how great they were; they were role models for me,” said Taylor.
But, Mr. T, have you ever heard of Meyer Prinstein?
“Well, errrr, no,” he had to admit.
Told that Prinstein, a New Yorker and a Syracuse University guy, had tripled to
Olympic golds in both 1900 (Paris) and 1904 (St. Louis), along with snaring a gold and a silver in his long jumps, Taylor’s response was “oh, wow…”
So that did not make him the first American to double the triple after all.
Moving right along, another check of the five-ringed archives will tell you that just one man has ever tripled the triple, and that was Victor Saneyev of the Soviet Union at Mexico City in 1968, Munich in 1972, and Monteal in 1976.
Two others have done the Paso Doble, you might say: Brazil’s immortal Adhemar Ferreira da Silva at Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne 1956, who was followed by Poland’s Jozef Schmidt atop the podium at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.
When all had quieted down, Taylor said “This is what I live for, this is what pushes me. I will continue to push, the season is not over and I’m healthy. I take everything into consideration, I have a phenomenal coach and I trust the program.”
He also had a phenomenal but foul leap – maybe world record-long – in the final round to fuel his desire to keep on tripling for years to come.
With role models like these, along with the sheer fun of it all, maybe
a great promoter-person – certainly there is some such individual out there somewhere – can elevate El Triplo into the next great national fad.
Maybe even in the class of the hula hoop, and needing no such equipment, either.
As the Nostalgia Central website tells us about the hula hoop: “The Hula Hoop is the standard by which all fads are measured. Somewhere inside that plastic ring lay the key to the hearts of a generation, and the Hula Hoop won those hearts like no toy before or since.”
That so, fad fans of the world, would you please unite; you have nothing to lose but your hoops. Go take a hop, a skip and a jump; keep smiling through each phase, and dream big, Olympic big.
Big enough to discover new talent in some interesting locations.
Tripoli, for instance.