U.S. triple jumper Christian Taylor won a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics, but at the Rio Games he has his eyes on more than just a second gold medal.
Taylor, who attended Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County, aims to break the 21-year-old record of 18.29 meters set by Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards. His best jump is 0.08 meters from the record and ranks second all-time.
“It took a special guy to do it and the reason I am here today is because I believe I can do it as well,” Taylor said. “That is what drives me every day. A medal will be great but I think if I come out with a world record, then it is a win-win.”
Taylor is also looking to become the first American to win the back-to-back triple jump gold medals since Meyer Prinstein won in the 1900 and 1904.
However, Taylor won’t look quite the same in his pursuit. Since London, his career has undergone a major transformation.
In 2013, he dealt with a left knee injury that has caused him to change his jumping leg. He now jumps off his right leg, which, he said, is like throwing with the opposite hand.
“It is a lot of coordination and timing,” Taylor said. “There is a lot of muscle development that goes into it. I had to switch my thinking and re-learn the event. It starts from smaller hops and lots of repetition.”
After spending the last four years perfecting his new technique, he is now testing it on the world’s biggest stage with a chance to make history. The event starts with qualifying on Monday with the finals following on Tuesday.
“The triple jump is very special and to do back-to-back (gold medals) is very difficult,” he said. “It beats your body up and it is why I had to switch legs. The biggest challenge is to stay healthy.”
Taylor will face stiff competition. The Olympic field includes 2015 world silver medalist Pedro Pichardo from Cuba, who is one of the few people to have joined Taylor in jumping 18 meters. Taylor said that he hopes the Cuban star performs at a high level to raise the competition bar.
Taylor beat Pichardo to win the 2015 world title.
“I am able to be the world champion going in,” Taylor said. “I think that adds a little to my charisma and confidence at the Olympic Games. My hunger, fire and passion are still the same.”
Taylor said he is fully prepared and that nothing will change when he defends his title.
“I am really focusing on coming out of competition healthy and to really challenge the world record,” he said.