World and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor has been one of the star performers of the 2015 season. Here the US jumper offers his take on our personal bests questions.
My best achievement in athletics
Breaking the 18-metre barrier for the first time this year because I am now part of such a special club. Only five of us have ever achieved it. When I jumped 18.04m in Doha (Taylor’s first ever 18-metre jump) I thought it had been measured incorrectly. I had to look back in the sand to check everything was alright. It was unreal. For the next two days I couldn’t even sleep. I was in complete shock thinking about what would happen to the rest of my season because Doha was my first meet. I thought, ‘have I peaked too early?’ I planned to jump this far at the World Championships. To jump 18 metres was a goal I had since I first started track and field. It was beautiful how it all came together.
The best piece of coaching advice
The best piece of advice I was given was by coach Eric Bowen at the Quicksilver Track Club in Atlanta when I was at high school. He said to me ‘get out of your own head’, which basically meant stop thinking about the jump so much because I can be prone to over-analysing. My current coach, Rana Reider, says the same thing and that sometimes I should just let the jumps happen.
My best friend in athletics
I have two: James Ellington (the British sprinter and European 4x100m champion) and Martyn Rooney (the European 400m champion, also from Great Britain). When I moved to live and train in Britain a few years ago, these were the guys I first clicked with and who I became friends with. I became good friends with them doing things outside of track and field, such as playing video games. I could relax, enjoy life with them and just be a regular guy.
The best competition venue
For sentimental reasons it is Crystal Palace because it is where I scored my first ever Diamond League win in 2011 (with a PB of 17.68m). A couple of weeks earlier I had gone to Monaco and been completely overwhelmed at my first Diamond League meet, so it was nice to come out at Crystal Palace to prove I could do it. I enjoyed the intimacy of the stadium. It was very homely. The athletes were close to the crowd and it was easy to get them involved.
My greatest rival
It is Will Claye because he has been my longest rival. We have battled for many years and even during high school I remember every week following on the internet what marks Will had jumped. Then at college we often went 1-2 and then as pros we finished 1-2 at the Olympics. It is a pretty special rivalry because we have come through the ranks together since high school.
The best athlete I have ever seen
Leevan Sands (the 2008 Olympic triple jump bronze medallist from The Bahamas). I pick him because of the inspirational factor. I remember him blowing his knee at the 2012 Olympic Games, which was one of the biggest days of my career. So for a guy I used to watch and admire come back at the 2015 World Championships and compete again was such an inspirational moment. His style is very funky. I love the attitude and swagger he brings. I’ve seen him jump barely 16 metres in The Bahamas but because of his style you would think he has jumped 18 metres, such is his rejoicing and trash talking.
My greatest disappointment
It was not winning a medal at the 2013 Moscow World Championships (Taylor finished fourth). That was one of the toughest moments of my career. After that disappointment I vowed to work harder because I did not want that feeling again. It was a real turning point in my career. Since then I’ve put in a tonne of work to avoid it happening again.
My greatest regret
I always wonder whether I should have gone back to school to complete the final year of my degree in hospitality and tourism. I had one more year left but I decided to turn professional. I always think about life after track and I know how important education is, so to not complete my degree is something I struggle with.
My greatest weakness
Not getting enough sleep. I live for the night. I’m often in contact with my friends in America at midnight (Taylor is based in Europe) when they are finishing work at six. My coach used to know what time I was staying up until because it used to say what time I was last active on WhatsApp. If I’m speaking to students, I would tell them I have eight to nine hours sleep a night, but if I’m honest I get five or six hours a night. I’ll find anything to do rather than go to sleep. I’ll even leave notes around saying ‘you are killing yourself by not going to sleep’ but it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
My best achievement outside of athletics
I’m involved with a programme called Classroom Champions, where I teach a lesson to students via Skype or via a video message. The lessons I teach draw from my own experiences and are about perseverance, setting goals and dreaming big. It is very motivating and inspiring and it is something I am proud to be a part of.
Steve Landells for the IAAF