Did the 2011 World Championships feel like a major step up, or did you try to treat it as just another meet?
“I felt like it was just another meet. It definitely was a bigger stage, but I don’t try to put any meet in front of another. I feel like, in all of them, I should give it my all. Christian and I expected, even before the season started, we knew we were going to the World Championships and we knew what we wanted to do. So that was already in our plans, as part of our schedule. When we wrote our schedule out with (Florida) coach (Dick) Booth, the World Championships were in there. So it wasn’t a surprise to us that we would get there and medal, we just felt like we knew what we had in the tank, and we knew what we could achieve, even when other people didn’t really know. I felt like, we both knew what we could do.”
Did you approach the 2012 World Indoor Championships differently than the outdoor championships?
“Definitely. We (Claye and Taylor) trained through the indoor (season); the Olympics were the main thing. We trained through it, but we still ended up jumping really good, Christian and I both ... so that was big. But we knew that it was something good to build off of.”
“It was awesome. I felt good about it, and I knew that it would give me a big confidence booster, for outdoors and the Olympics.”
So you began preparing for the Olympics as soon as the 2011 outdoor championships ended?
“Yeah, the Olympics were on both of our minds. That was the only thing that I could see. Everything else was just practice to me. The Olympics were the only thing that I was worried about.”
You said you try to treat all your meets the same, but was the big stage of the Olympics different?
“I guess it was. It wasn’t so much the atmosphere of the stadium, it was just the surroundings, when you weren’t competing, and just so many distractions. Way more than the World Championships. People want you to come here, come there, do this, do that. And it was just so much going on. It’s so hard to stay focused out there at the Village. Definitely, that was tough. But it was good for me, I had a lot of family out there, so I would just leave the Village and go stay with my brother.”
It sounds like the way football players describe the Super Bowl.
“Exactly. That’s what it is for us. That’s our Super Bowl. That’s our biggest, biggest event.”
You didn’t make the Olympic triple jump final until your third qualifying jump. What was your approach to that make-or-break jump?
“I don’t know what was going through my head, but I was just being real nonchalant about the prelims. I don’t know why, I’ve never done that before. I thought, ‘I’m going to go down on my first jump and just bust one and then go home.’ But it didn’t go that way, so I had to adjust. The winds were a little different so I had to be careful, but at the same time I had to really go all out and get one out there to make it through. And my coach, he was really upset about that. He was saying I was just really nonchalant. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was coming off of the long jump and I was tired or what it was, but I just felt different. But then when the finals came around I was back to Will Claye. Once the finals came around I felt good. The prelims, none of those jumps count, so I’m glad at least I made it through and did what I had to do in the finals.”
The Olympic long jump competition was close all the way. Were you thinking about the standings?
“No, I’m really not looking at the scoreboard. I’m really not looking at any one else’s jumps. I felt like I had a lot more in me, so I was just trying to stay tight and get my technique, and just get on the board. That was the only thing. It was so tough because the winds were just throwing everyone off, so even when I was trying to adjust, it was just throwing me off. But I wasn’t really paying attention to everybody else. Because it was so close. If you let that get to your head it’ll really mess you up. It’s like staying in your lane in a race. You can’t be watching the next person. You’ve got to do your own thing and execute your own technique and just do what you’ve been doing, and that’s what I had to do.”
How did it feel to be in the lead in the Olympic triple jump final?
“I knew I had a target on my back, for sure.”
What were your emotions when Christian took the lead?
“I wasn’t worried about anybody, really. I knew that I had something in me. I knew the jumps that I had in the first three rounds, they were good but I knew that I could alter a few little things and just tweak my technique around a little, run a little better down the runway and I would bust one. I wasn’t too worried about Christian or any of the rest of the guys. But I always know Christian has something in him, so I never put anything past Christian, ever. You can’t. If you do that, he’s going to demolish you. Because I’ve done it before, in practice, and it wasn’t good. So I learned not to do that.”
How did you feel about your overall Olympic performance?
“It was awesome. I was happy to come back with those two medals. I went for the gold, two golds, but to come back with a bronze and a silver was awesome. It’s a blessing, definitely a blessing. And I’m thankful for that. It’s even more motivation for 2016 now, to get those two golds out there.”
You’re already thinking about the next Olympics?
“Oh yeah, definitely.”
Claye discusses his track and field background and why he performs both jumps in part one of his About.com interview.
Check out Will Claye’s triple jump tips.
Read Claye’s career profile.