By Jonathan Gault
June 23, 2017
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One of the oddest things on day 2 of the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships was seeing Christian Taylor intentionally foul his first — and only — attempt in Friday’s triple jump final. Taylor, a two-time Olympic champion, had an automatic entry to Worlds by virtue of his status as defending world and Diamond League champion, but in order to be selected to Team USA, he had to compete at this weekend’s meet. So he flew in from his training base in the Netherlands on Thursday night, took one “jump” on Friday and will fly back to Europe on Saturday morning.
Why? Taylor has three meets planned over the next two weeks (Ostrava on June 28, Paris on July 1, Lausanne on July 6) and he said piling on another one would have been asking a lot from his body.
“I definitely think it would have jeopardized [my health],” Taylor said. “I have two meets back-to-back, a five-day break and then Lausanne. So I think it’s tough to jump at a high level so close together.”
So does that mean Ostrava, which is not even a Diamond League event, is more important to Taylor than the national championships?
“No no no,” he said, “it’s not more important. It’s just, I’ve committed to that.”
But that explanation doesn’t hold water. Taylor knew, at the very beginning of the season, before he committed to Ostrava, that in order to compete at Worlds, he would have to compete at the USATF champs. And with Olympic silver medalist Will Claye jumping a lifetime best of 17.91 meters to get the win tonight — #2 in the world this year behind Taylor’s 18.11 — it would have been quite a competition if Taylor had taken it seriously.
So if Taylor, who said he is “100% healthy” knew he had to compete at USAs, why did he schedule three meets immediately afterwards?
“I tried to talk to USA Track & Field and see if I can somehow get out of it. But rules are rules and I had to compete. And yeah, I came and I did what I needed to do…I think the reason we have to be here is to show fitness. I’m not sure exactly the wording. My appeal to it was I’ve got the #1 world ranking…I’ve won every meet this year.”
What Taylor did not say is that, those meets are all more lucrative that USAs. As Diamond League events, Paris and Lausanne both pay $10,000 for the win. USATF only pays $8,000 to the winner in Sacramento. Ostrava is not a DL event, but Taylor likely received a hefty appearance fee to compete there (why do you think Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are trekking to the Czech Republic to compete next week?).
The happy-go-lucky Taylor is one of the USA’s biggest stars and normally a terrific ambassador for the sport. Even as he faced questions from a gaggle of reporters about his performance today, he kept a smile on his face.
But it’s a problem when arguably the best athlete in the entire meet chooses not to compete seriously in his own national championship. In many other countries, top stars such as Usain Bolt and Mo Farah are allowed to skip their national championships in order to prepare for Worlds. The United States does not do that. Christian Taylor knows that, and he should have competed today.
Full Christian Taylor interview