To many international track and field observers, Will Claye practically came out of nowhere to reach the finals of both the long and triple jumps at the 2011 World Championships. U.S. college fans, however, were aware of Claye’s potential after seeing him win two NCAA triple jump championships. By the time the 2012 Olympics were underway, Claye had quickly become the world’s premier double-jump performer.
Track Takes a Backseat:
Claye began as a casual track competitor, competing in the hurdles and long jump in middle school. But when his high school coach saw Claye perform some bounding drills, Claye became a triple jumper as well. But even though Claye won the Arizona triple jump championship as a high school freshman, track remained his second-favorite sport, after football. “Track always took a backseat to football until I got to college, that’s when I really started to take track serious,” Claye says.
As a double jumper, perhaps it’s appropriate that Claye attended two colleges. He graduated early from high school so he could enroll sooner at the University of Oklahoma and work with the school’s jumps coach, Jeremy Fischer. When Fischer left Oklahoma, Claye transferred to the University of Florida to join coach Dick Booth, plus teammate Christian Taylor. Claye won the NCAA outdoor triple jump championship with Oklahoma in 2009 and the national indoor title with Florida in 2011. Fischer became Claye’s coach after he turned professional.
After Taylor and Claye finished 1-2 in the triple jump at the 2011 U.S. Championships – Claye also took second in the long jump – they both turned pro and competed in the Daegu World Championships. To that point, Claye’s biggest international splash was his triple jump victory at the 2009 Junior Pan-American Games. Claye qualified for both finals in Daegu – the second man in World Championship history to do so – placing ninth in the long jump but earning a bronze medal in the triple jump, which was won by Taylor. While Claye set his sights immediately on the 2012 Olympics, he doubled again at the 2012 World Indoor Championships where he won the triple jump and placed fourth in the long jump.
Claye doubled again at the London Olympics, but this time he medalled in both events, becoming the first man to do so since Naoto Tajima of Japan won the triple jump and took third in the long jump in 1936. In the long jump, Claye moved from fifth to third place in the fourth round and held his spot to earn a bronze medal. He barely qualified for the triple jump, reaching the final on a do-or-die third qualifying try, but he led the final until Taylor flew farther. Claye improved his distance to a then-outdoor personal best 17.62 meters (57 feet, 9¾ inches) and won the silver medal.
- Height: 5 feet, 11 inches
- Weight: 160 pounds
- Birth date: June 13, 1991
- Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
- Personal best: 17.70 meters (58 feet, ¾ inch), triple jump; 8.29 meters (27 feet, 2¼ inches), long jump