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Will Claye Interview (Part 1)

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Will Claye Interview (Part 1)

Will Claye (left) and Christian Taylor celebrate after the 2012 Olympic triple jump final.

By age 20, Will Claye was one of the top horizontal jumpers in the United States. He was also a rare performer who doubled in the long and triple jumps at the professional level. I spoke with Claye in December 2012 about his career and his relationship with former University Florida teammate Christian Taylor. Taylor topped Claye to win triple jump gold medals at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics, while Claye edged Taylor to finish first at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.
Is it true you started running track to stay in shape for football?

“Yes, I was playing football. I was taking football a lot more seriously than track. I was approached by a club-type person to come out and that’s where it all started. Track always took a back seat to football until I got to college. That’s when I really started to take track serious.”

How old were you when you started to run track?

“When I was small we had our little field days and we would do track, and we had Hershey’s track meets. But I really started running track when I was in the sixth grade. … I was a hurdler and a long jumper.”

When did you begin triple jumping?

“Triple jump started my freshman year of high school. ... I just became a natural at it. The first day of practice we were doing bounds, and my coach was just saying, ‘Oh, yeah. I can definitely work with what you have.’ And it just took off from there. ... He just saw something and from there on that’s when I started to do triple jump. I thought I would just do long jump and sprint, but he saw that I was a triple jumper.”

Which events did you do at the University of Oklahoma?

“I ran a few 60s, and I ran on the 4 x 4 once at conference, too. But I didn’t run too much, only if they needed me to, or if I was doing some speed work.”

When you tranferred to Florida and teamed with Christian Taylor, did you two motivate each other?

“Definitely. Christian and I, we competed against each other, we went back and forth. My freshman year, I won (the NCAA outdoor triple jump championship), and then the next year he won, so we knew that we would push each other. And that really helped the both of us because, at practice, we would compete so hard with each other that when we would get to the meet, it was like everybody else was just nothing. Because we were so used to competing so hard at practice, with Christian and Omar Craddock, too. It was definitely good for us both to have each other there at the same time.”

Was the competition at Florida a key to you and Christian becoming world class athletes so quickly?

“Definitely that helped us. Because you get to see the best person in the nation every day. And we would go at it at practice. And when we would practice, it was like practice stopped for everybody else. The sprinters and (others) would be clapping. It was like a track meet at practice every day when we jumped.”

What’s your relationship with Christian today?

“Me and Christian are still real close. He’s like my big brother. We’re still real tight and we talk all the time. Even at track meets and stuff we’ll just hang out and talk about, not even track stuff. It’s cool to have somebody out there competing with you like that.”

What’s the difference between competing while you were in school and competing as a pro?

“It’s a little bit different. It’s not so much of a team, you don’t have anyone telling you, ‘You have to do this, you have to do that.’ You have to focus yourself and you have to really be committed to it. It’s a job. I was at the track from like 10:30 until 5:00 every day, except for Sunday. So it was a job; it didn’t feel like work, but I was really out there all day.”

Do you have a special motivation technique for practice?

“Not really, no. We have so much fun at practice. Even if we’re doing something hard and we’re all dead tired after practice, it’s always fun because Jeremy Fischer, he’s like a big brother to me. That’s my coach. So we always have fun at practice no matter what type of workout it is or anything like that. And my training partner, Tyron Stewart. He was with me (in 2011-12). So it was definitely good to have him there as my training partner.”

How do you balance long jump and triple jump training?

“My coach, he does a really good job of balancing out the workouts. I don’t ever do both jumps on the same day at practice. When I’m practicing and I’m getting ready to jump at a meet on the circuit, if I’m long jumping that weekend, that week will be long jump. If I’m triple jumping that week it’ll be triple jump. You never want to do both jumps on the same day, coinciding like that, because that’s defeating the purpose; they’re two different events. It’s like training for the 400 hurdles and the 100 hurdles on the same day. It just won’t work.”

How much tougher on your body is the triple jump?

“It’s a lot tougher on the body. It’s a pounding. It’s three jumps, and you’re putting like 40, 50, 60 times your body weight into the ground, two or three times. So it’s a lot tougher. But if your technique is right then you’ll definitely be able to stay healthy and you won’t get hurt if you’re doing it right.”

Will you continue to double?

“I’ll always want to double. Because I feel like if God’s given me the talent to do both, I might as well go ahead and use it and not take it for granted. But there may be a year or two where I may concentrate more on one. I feel like this year (2013) I’m going to concentrate more on the long jump and getting faster. Because I feel like there’s still a lot more room for me to improve in the long jump.”

What are your goals for the future?

“Goals for this year (2013), I don’t really have any numbers as goals, but I do want to win all the meets I compete in, and just continue to get better and to perfect the craft. I feel like I have a lot more to learn in both long and triple jump. So this year I’m emphasizing a lot on speed, this whole fall all I’ve done is speed work. I’ve been practicing with sprinters every day. So I’m just trying to get that speed up there. If I can run fast in the 100 and the 60, then I know that I can transfer that onto the runway. So speed and my takeoff in the long jump are two things that I’m really working on. And I know that if I do that, I’m going to jump far. Who knows how far? Only God knows how far, but I know it’ll add on a lot more distance to what I’ve done already.”

Claye discusses his Olympic and World Championship experiences in part two of his About.com interview.

Check out Will Claye’s triple jump tips.

Read Claye’s career profile.

Learn more about long jump rules and triple jump rules.

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