DAEGU, South Korea – Former University of Florida track and field star Christian Taylor added a gold medal to his trophy case on Sunday becoming the youngest World Champion in the triple jump at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu.
The Bowerman finalist, USA champion and NCAA Outdoors Champion leapt a world-leading 17.96m/58-11 in his fourth attempt to move in front of the leaderboard and put the pressure on defending World Champion and Olympic silver medalist, Phillips Idowu.
Taylor, who beat Idowu less than a month ago in the Diamond League event in London and had his number once again in Daegu as Idowu fell short to a 17.77m/57-4 mark, his furthest of the competition, but not enough to defend his World title.
Former Gator All-American and NCAA Indoors Champion Will Claye (Phoenix, Ariz.) captured bronze with a personal-best 17.50m/57-05 jump, marking the first time since 1991 that the USA had two medalists in the triple jump.
“I did not expect to jump this far,” Taylor said. “I was definitely going for the win. It’s a blessing. I had my dad here and my coach. They have both been extremely supportive. It feels great to get the world title back to the USA.”
Both Claye and Taylor scratched their first jumps with Idowu taking an early lead with a jump of 17.56m. Taylor put himself into fifth place in his second jump with a leap of 17.04. Claye scratched once again and had to make a few adjustments in his attempt to make it out of the prelims on Sunday.
“My first two (attempts), I scratched, so I knew I had to move back and really go at it,” Claye said.
Claye and Taylor’s third attempts propelled them into the final six, registering jumps of 17.50m and 17.40m, respectively. Claye’s third jump would not only prove to be his bronze medal-winning jump, but with his 17.50m leap, he became the youngest triple jump medalist in the history of the World Championships. Claye’s triple jump result is all the more impressive, considering he was the only triple jump finalist to also compete in the long jump qualifying round and finals just a few days ago.
The fourth round proved to be the decision maker, as Taylor took his record-breaking fourth jump, one that forced the thousands in Daegu onto their feet as Taylor jumped out of the building with a world-leading 17.96m, good for fifth all-time in the world record books and the longest triple jump for an American male in over two decades. Taylor was one centimeter away from the American record, as American Willie Banks jumped 17.97m on June 16th, 1985.
“I knew (the jump) was going to be big,” Taylor said. It was the first time that I knew I ran and gave it my all. The crowd was great. I fed off the crowd’s energy and I really dug deep. It’s a great feeling, great to be here and now I can focus on the Olympics and London 2012.”
Taylor’s gold medal winning jump was the second longest in World Championships history behind Britain’s Jonathan Edwards’ world record of 18.29m, achieved 16 years ago in the 1995 IAAF World Championships in Gothenburg.
Taylor and Claye will now turn their attention to the 2012 Olympics. Both Gators were considered underdogs heading into the World Championships in Daegu, but are certain to have the spotlight thrust upon them in the competitions leading up to London.
“Today was my day, but I will stay calm and keep working hard,” Taylor said. “This is a work in progress.”