“Someone with long levers. Long femurs, that’s really a good sign of a triple jumper. And definitely someone with some speed. I feel like there’s a lot of people that can do triple jump, but they just don’t know it. When I started I didn’t know about triple jump. I started bounding, I didn’t know how to bound. But I learned how to bound better and better, to the point where it just became natural. So, speed and power and quickness, just being quick off the ground and just having that bounce in their step is definitely a good thing for a triple jumper to have.”
“I feel like it’s the other way around. If you can triple jump, you can long jump. But not all long jumpers can triple jump.”
Is the approach run different in the triple jump?
“Yes, definitely. For the triple jump, when you’re approaching the board you’re not turning over the same way as you would for the long jump. When you’re in the long jump, you’re turning over and you’re trying to stay tall and have your knees up, so that when you take off from the board you can drive your knee. ... The triple jump is a little more in control, you’re running a little more in control than in the long jump.”
And you can’t take off as high, off the board?
“You’ve got to have good angles. You want to have good angles and you want to drive your knee to parallel when you’re coming off the board (in the triple jump) so you don’t over-rotate. Because if you don’t drive your knee, then your chest won’t be up. And you want to drive your knee and slow down your rotation on that first phase and slow your rotation down so that when you get to your second phase, then you’ll be in a good position. Because if you start off bad then it’s just going to go downhill from there, in the triple jump. The first phase is definitely the most important phase.”
What are the key fundamentals of the second and third phases of the triple jump?
“The step, you want to get off the ground as quick as possible. If you watch Jonathan Edwards, he was so quick off the ground. You want to keep your speed throughout your second and your third phase. Whoever keeps their speed the most going into the last phase is probably the one who’s going to win. Because that’s what triple jumping is all about, is keeping your momentum and speed throughout your phases, and with distance. Anyone can keep their speed if their distance is short. But you want to maintain your speed while getting distance and not going too high or going too low. It has to be perfect angles. And your knee drive has to be there and you have to hold your second phase as long as possible. And coming off of your last phase you have to drive your knee and punch your arms to keep that momentum going. And landing is definitely big, too. Landing in the sand is something that messes up a lot of people. It robs people of inches and even sometimes feet, all the time. So landing is definitely big.”
How similar is the movement in the air in the two jumps?
“The only thing that would be similar is the knee drive, that would be it. Everything else is (different). Like your arms – for me, I have double arms on my last phase (of the triple jump). If I was doing the long jump I would have single.”
You take off on your left foot in the triple jump. Is that standard?
“No. I go weak, weak, strong in the triple jump. Most people go strong, strong, weak.”
Why do you do it that way?
“That’s just natural to me. My last phase is my best phase. But I feel like my right is pretty (strong). I feel like I could long jump pretty well off my right, if I tried. It’s just always been natural, ever since day one, I just went right, right, left. And my last phase is always big. I’m able to keep all my speed, and if I can do that and hit my last phase I’ll go 21 feet on my last phase.”
If you hit the first phase right, should the rest flow naturally?
“Yeah, the rest will pretty much flow naturally. If you do that right, and you’re in a good position going into your second (phase), it’ll feel like you don’t even have to try – it just happens. In the triple jump, if you try too hard it won’t work. You have to really be relaxed.”
So it’s kind of a balancing act?
“Yeah. The triple jump is a finesse (sport) – you have to finesse, that’s for sure.”
Can a young jumper learn the triple jump as a complete process, or should coaches introduce it piece-by-piece?
“The way I learned, it all started out bounding. Bounding was the main thing. And then I started to learn the first phase – the second phase is a bound, the last phase is a bound. I don’t feel like I learned it all at once. I feel like I learned it in pieces, phase by phase.”
Do you think that’s a good way to learn triple jump?
“I feel like that’s a better way to learn it. Because you can’t just go out there and show somebody, ‘This is the triple jump, OK now jump.’ You have to break it down, ‘Here’s the first phase; this is how you come off the board; this is how you hit your second phase; this is how you land; this is how you drive your knee on your last phase.’ And then you put it all together.”
How long did it take you to put it all together?
“I’m still putting it together. To this day, I’m still trying to fix things that can make me jump farther. I don’t think there’s ever a perfect triple jump. There’s always something you can fix. There’s never that perfect jump. Even in my farthest jumps, I think, ‘Aw man, if I would’ve done that, dang, I could’ve ...”
Do you have a favorite drill you can share with young triple jumpers?
“A drill that I like, that I got from Willie Banks, it’s called a two-minute drill. You go like 30 feet away from the pit and you take just a stride up and you do a triple jump. And right when you come out of the pit you go right back, for two minutes straight. And it just helps you to keep your technique straight and tight, as you’re getting fatigued. When you get fatigued you really have to think about the technique, and keeping it tight. That’s definitely a good drill.”
Do you have any other advice for young triple jumpers?
“The main thing I would say is, don’t forget that you have to run fast to jump far. Speed is big in the triple jump.”
Claye discusses his track and field background and why he performs both jumps in part one of his About.com interview.
Claye discusses his Olympic and World Championship experiences in part two of his About.com interview.
Read Claye’s career profile.