Updated August 3, 2016
I am at the Outdoor retailer and was speaking to several about the number two decathlon in the U.S., Jeremy Taiwo. I am picking Jeremy to be in top six, but seriously, the guy is in the medal hunt for Rio! Read this fun piece by Cait Chock and watch Jeremy in Rio in less than two weeks!
RunBlogRun opines: The decathlon, as the late, great Bob Mathias (gold medalist, 1948, 1952) once told me, is ten events in which one can make a mistake. Jeremy Taiwo kept it together, and with a masterful last 1,500 meters, he took second place. Here is Cait Chock’s feature on the amazing athlete fulfilling his dream.
Jeremy Taiwo is an Olympian now.
Jeremy Taiwo: On injury, GoFundMe, Grinding, and Dreaming
By: Cait Chock
A year ago Jeremy Taiwo banked everything on his dream: to become an Olympian. He moved to Seattle as a Brooks Beast, reunited with his University of Washington coach, Atanas Atanassov, and started a GoFundMe account to help him cover the costs of therapy and training. Taiwo was adulating, in early 2016, he was officially too old to be covered by his parent’s insurance so he started working in addition to training and rehabbing.
“I just did the best I could working and grinding and asking and relying on a community to support me,” shares Taiwo. “It was a very humbling experience…[and] I’m so grateful and appreciative of the sponsors and people that gave me a chance to prove myself and believed in me.”
Track is a punishing sport, it doesn’t care if it’s your dream to be an Olympian, because you’re not the only one with that dream. Sometimes you wind up injured, sometimes you’re stuck in an injury cycle, and sometimes the stars align and everything works out. It’s a risk any way, and for those who can persevere, learn to stay positive through the obstacles, and hold out…the Gods of track may very well smile down upon you. On day three of the USA Olympic Track Trials they smiled down upon Taiwo.
“I appreciate how unforgiving and apathetic track is, it makes you a resilient warrior,” explains Taiwo. Sponsored by Brooks, Taiwo’s early events in Eugene left him with the sense that he was “on top of everything.” Despite being not fully satisfied with the start of his 100 meters, after his second long jump things started to click. He stayed confident, and when it came time for the 1500 meter he knew it was all or nothing. “As I toed the line, I just told myself that ‘this is where it’s earned, it’s completely up to you and the only way to do this is to go out with bravery.’ “
He crossed the line in 4:17.35 and his first thought was, “Wow, did I really just run that fast? It didn’t feel like I was trying to go that fast.” It was one of ‘those’ races, the ones every athlete dreams of, hoping they come on the days that matter the most. For Taiwo it did, “Running that race was a complete out of body experience, I was the passenger, instinct and the beast took over, and the beast had not been fed.” That out of body experience landed him second at the Trials behind Ashton Eaton.
Officially off to Rio representing the United States for the decathlon, that Beast inside Taiwo may only have just have whet its appetite, savored the sweetest taste, and got hungry for more at the Olympics.
Taiwo’s story of triumph makes for the perfect inspirational story, the kind most every media outlet will be buzzing about. The risks he took this past year up the ante and are the makings of a story that can uplift athletes and non-athletes alike. The types of stories mortals from all walks of life, even the ones who’ve never set foot on a track before, can glean inspiration from because they’ve no doubt dreamed before.
But, what many ‘non athletes’ and news networks not specifically versed in sports may overlook is it’s not this one year that Taiwo’s taken risks and boldly been etching way on this dream of his. No, it’s been years and years and tireless months on end staying steadfast and dedicated to the cause. Taiwo’s father is a two time Olympian, having represented Nigeria, so one can only venture to guess the seeds had been planted in his mind from an early age.
Practice for Taiwo starts with a 1.5 mile jog or walk to the track every day then a focused 2-3 hours visiting 2-3 different events. After, he’ll jog the 1.5 miles back home, rest for two hours and then head to the weight room. In the weight room he hits the “fast, explosive stuff.” Shares Taiwo, “I work with my main coach every day, but work with event specific coaches once a week.”
With the Trials complete comes a nice sigh of relief, he’s made it to Rio. Taiwo wants to savor the full experience of the Olympics and “keep the momentum rolling, not mess up in the vault, have better tosses in the jav and disc, and then actually suffer in the 1500 and 400 like I should.” He also wants to hit 7’6″ for the high jump to gain entry into a Diamond League meet. This, in part, is mostly to prove to single event athletes that decathletes can give them a run for their money.
“Single event athletes give decs a lot of crap for not being able to be competitive in open events,” Taiwo speaks frankly. “My high jump during the decathlon would have put me in third at the Trials. So for practicing that event once a week or every two weeks, it would be cool to go to a Diamond League for it.”
Looking beyond Rio, “everything after this is a bonus, so I’m just excited to see where sports will take me in general. Maybe I’ll try to get in the league, or play some handball overseas, who knows?”
A year ago,struggling to stay healthy, Taiwo took a chance. He dumped everything he had into chasing his dream and even more than what he had. When he competes in Rio he’s fulfilling a dream of his own, and allowing every supporter, sponsor, and believer to vicariously live a part of that dream too.
Caitlin Chock (caitchock.com) set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer and artist, you can see more of her work on her website and Instagram @caitchock.