Christian Taylor didn’t begin triple jumping until he was in high school, but he seems to have been preparing for the event all his life. Just before the 2012 Olympics he said he was “always running and around and jumping” as a young child. The running and jumping eventually paid off with an Olympic gold medal at age 22, with more successes undoubtedly waiting down the road.
Bouncy Young Athlete:
As a boy, Taylor says, he ran and bounced around his Georgia home so frequently that his family eventually had to replace some floorboards that he wore out. Away from home, he initially channeled his energy into soccer, a favorite sport of his Barbados-born parents. He eventually gravitated to football – the American version – plus track and field, where he competed in the 400 meters and the long jump. But the plain long jump was a bit boring for the bouncy Taylor, who became interested in the triple jump. Without a coach on hand who was knowledgeable in the triple jump, Taylor studied videos online and ordered some triple jump DVDs. He taught himself well enough to win a state title and left Sandy Creek High School as Georgia’s record-holder in the triple jump, long jump and the 400.
Taylor received a track and field scholarship to the University of Florida, where he competed for three years before turning professional in 2011. Taylor won NCAA indoor triple jump championships in 2009 and 2010, plus outdoor titles in 2010 and 2011. He also competed in the long jump and the 4 x 400-meter relay. He was eventually joined at Florida by fellow jumper Will Claye, and the pair developed a strong off-track friendship and on-track rivalry. It’s not unusual to see both Taylor and Claye perform the University of Florida’s “Gator Chop” – basically simulating an alligator’s bite with their outstretched arms – after a successful event.
While he was still in high school, Taylor demonstrated both his ability and versatility by earning a gold medal in the triple jump and a bronze in the long jump at the 2007 World Youth Championships. Moving up to the World Junior Championships in 2008, Taylor was seventh in the long jump and eighth in triple jump while earning a gold medal as part of the American 4 x 400 relay team. Taylor won the triple jump, long jump and the straight 400 at the 2008 U.S. Scholastic Indoor Championships. In 2010 Taylor won under-23 titles in the triple jump and long jump at the NACAC championships, for North American, Caribbean and Central American athletes.
After winning his first U.S. outdoor triple jump title in 2011, Taylor turned pro and earned a surprising triple jump gold medal at the Daegu World Championships. Taylor, the youngest jumper in the final at age 21, was in third place entering the fourth round, behind Great Britain’s Phillips Idowu and Claye. Taylor then produced a personal best leap of 17.96 meters (58 feet, 11¼ inches), which stood up as the winning jump. At the time, the jump was the ninth-best in world history, third on the American all-time list. Taylor went on to earn a silver medal – behind Claye – at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.
In contrast to Daegu, Taylor entered the 2012 Olympics among the favorites. The surprise wasn’t his ultimate victory, but how close he came to leaving without a medal. Taylor began the final with two long jumps, but put his toe across the line both times, drawing two fouls. On the verge of elimination, Taylor executed a safe jump that put him into fifth place, then unleashed his winning jump of 17.81/58-5¼ in the fourth round.
- Height: 6 feet, 2 inches
- Weight: 175 pounds
- Birth date: June 18, 1990
- Hometown: Fayetteville, Georgia
- Personal best: Triple jump: 17.96 meters (58 feet, 11¼ inches); Long jump: 8.19 meters (26 feet, 10½ inches)