The world and Olympic triple jump gold medallist says being the defending champion in Rio will give him an edge over his rivals
US triple jumper Christian Taylor says the kudos of entering 2016 as the defending Olympic champion will give him an edge over his competitors in Rio.
Provided Taylor navigates his way through the US Olympic trials in early July, the 25-year-old will likely go into the Games as favourite to retain his title having won World Championships gold in Beijing with a stunning leap of 18.21m – the second best jump of all time, just eight centimetres shy of equalling Jonathan Edwards’ world record from 1995.
The two-time world champion forged one of the rivalries of the summer in 2015 with Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo, resulting in the two frequently doing battle with one another up around the 18-metre mark.
The return of 2013 world champion, Teddy Tamgho, to full fitness in 2016 – an 18-metre man at his best with Taylor and Pichardo – adds to the competition Taylor will face this summer, but the American believes his status as Olympic champion will work in his favour.
“When you’re defending a title you stand a little taller and hopefully run a little faster. It’s going to give me a little more strength and confidence, even a little more swag going into the championship,” Taylor said.
“Hopefully I can still have that hunger but also use that extra push. When the announcer says ‘defending Olympic champ’, I’m just going to stand a little more proud.”
“When you’re defending a title you stand a little taller and hopefully run a little faster”
Taylor is just one week away from launching the defence of his Diamond League crown in Doha where he and Pichardo played out an epic duel last year as the Cuban triumphed with an 18.06m personal best to Taylor’s 18.04m – the only time in history two men have jumped beyond 18 metres in the same competition.
Positioned unfortunately with two morning sessions in Brazil, the triple jump hasn’t been afforded top billing in the famous Maracanã Stadium, but in terms of rivalry and standards, the event is one of the most highly anticipated over the course of the 10-day schedule in Rio.
The level of competition in the high jump, Taylor says, acted as motivation for him to help raise the profile of his own event, and he expects that to continue for 2016.
“I’m grateful for the high jumpers who kind of paved the way before,” he added. “I never thought high jump would be a premier event but literally every time they’re going after the world record or jumping ridiculous heights week after week. If the high jump can become a main event, why can’t we? That’s a question I continually asked myself.
“Everyone has jumped 18 metres between Teddy, Pichardo and myself. I said why can’t we do that every week? I didn’t have to say much to Pichardo. He was jumping 17.90 or 18 before the Doha meet last year so I knew he was in shape and ready to roll. I just told myself and Teddy, why can’t we do this and be that premier event?”
He continued: “The triple jump is a very attractive event. You can ask for the clap and get the crowd into it. It brings my excitement up and brings the field up. Even the announcers can get behind it.
“It’s different from the sprints where you see nine seconds and it’s done. The crowd can sit and watch. We’re out there for a good amount of time and the crowd can get behind us and feel like they’re jumping with us. We’ve just got to keep that rolling.”
» Read more from Christian Taylor’s interview in next week’s Athletics Weekly magazine