Tuesday, 28 March 2017 09:09

Eugene: Double Olympic Gold Medalist Christian Taylor Leads Triple Jump

Written by Diamond League
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Christian Taylor - © Kirby Lee Christian Taylor - © Kirby Lee
THE TWO BEST triple jumpers in the world—Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye—will go head-to-head at the Prefontaine Classic in a stellar field that includes all three medalists from the Rio Olympic Games.

Christian Taylor, still only 26, is a major draw to the sport and the target of every other triple jumper in the world. His amazing collection of awards continues to grow and now includes two Olympic golds, two World Championships golds and five IAAF Diamond League trophies. His latest Olympic title in Rio made him the youngest repeater in the event in more than 100 years, and only Viktor Saneyev can claim more TJ golds with three. Taylor’s five Diamond League trophies is only topped by pole vaulter Renauld Lavillenie’s seven.

Taylor will be seeking a third World Championships gold in London this summer. He already owns the most with two after taking the Beijing '15 crown with an American record 59-9 (18.21) – the second-best jump in history behind Jonathan Edwards’ world record of 60-¼ (18.29) in 1995.

His victory in last year’s thrilling Pre Classic gave him a second meet title at 58-3¼ (17.76), a Hayward Field record. Only Hall-of-Famer Willie Banks (three) has more Pre Classic wins in this event.

Will Claye, 25, earned his second Olympic silver in Rio with a lifetime best 58-3¼ (17.76), repeating the finish in London four years earlier. In 2012, Claye had earlier taken the bronze medal in the long jump, becoming the first man since 1936 to win Olympic medals in both horizontal jumps. He also owns a major TJ gold, having earned the top podium spot at the 2012 World Indoor Championships.

Claye has battled Taylor since they were college freshmen in 2009, originally at different schools until Claye transferred from Oklahoma to Florida as the horizontal jumps world took a Gator flavoring in 2011. They finished 1-2 in the World Championships in Daegu, and every Olympics or outdoor Worlds has seen both on the podium except 2013 (Taylor was only 4th). While Taylor has the upper hand in medals (4-1 in golds), Claye owns a career 19-17 advantage in head-to-head competition and, after winning the first matchup, has never been behind, only letting Taylor get even three times (most recently in 2011).

Their most epic duel may have been in last year’s Pre Classic, when Claye was the defending champion. Each improved on almost every attempt, and Claye’s last-round best of 57-7½ (17.56) was overtaken by Taylor’s 58-3¼ (17.76), breaking the Hayward Field record set by Claye at the 2014 Pre Classic. Claye obviously loves jumping in Eugene, the site of 4 of his 9 farthest jumps ever.

China’s Bin Dong, 28, is the reigning World Indoor champion but saved his longest performance for Rio, where he claimed Olympic bronze at 57-8¼ (17.58), just a centimeter away from the Asian record 57-8½ set by Li Yanxi, a previous holder of the Pre Classic meet record. His two medals are the only ones at the world level for China in this event.

Max Hess of Germany struck gold as a 19-year-old at last year’s European Championships in Amsterdam. He had already earned silver medals on the world stage twice in Oregon – first at Hayward Field in the 2014 World Junior Championships, then last year at Portland in the World Indoor Championships. Now 20, he is this year’s early world leader at 57-5¾ (17.52).

Troy Doris is a dual American citizen who chose to represent Guyana in his first international competition – the Olympics in Rio. The former 4-time All-American while at Iowa turned in the four best performances of his career last year, improving more than a foot to 56-4½ (17.18) and finished 7th in the Olympics.

Alexis Copello of Cuba is the oldest in the field at 31 and owns the most appearances in the Top 10 world rankings by T&FN – seven in the last eight years, topped by a No. 2 in 2010. A bronze medalist in the 2009 World Championships, he was 4th in last year’s Pre Classic.

New French sensation Melvin Raffin is the youngest in the field at 18. He set an indoor World Junior record of 56-5¼ (17.20) in the qualifying round of this month’s European Indoor Championships. He was bronze medalist at last summer’s World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

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