Christian Taylor hop-step-jumped into the history books when he won the triple jump world title in Beijing in August with a 18.21m final round effort – the second best mark ever. The charismatic American shares the wisdom he’s learned on the way to the top.
1. This lifestyle is not normal
“Many people cannot comprehend the life of a track and field athlete. Many of my friends back in the US have no idea what it is like to by flying from city to city every three days and staying in different hotels during the season.
“If I need a reminder of how different my life is, it always comes when I head back to the US for the off-season. It is often hard for me to think that all my friends are not enjoying the off-season too. Yet they maybe get two weeks vacation a year, and if they are lucky they will get paid during that period.
“I have much more flexibility with when I can go on vacation. If the weather gets a little cooler in Florida, I can go to a warm weather training camp in South Africa. I am away competing in all these bucket list cities around the world. Many of my friends don’t even have passports.
“In the past all I used to do when I was in these great places was sit in my hotel room, but I have come to appreciate how lucky I am, and now I always make an effort to get out of the hotel room and do something in the city where I am based. I’ve found the balance.
“When I was in Beijing for the world championships I visited the Forbidden City, and in Lausanne I went to the Olympic Museum. What I have is definitely a different lifestyle and I need to make the most of that.”
A year on from winning his first senior world title, Taylor won gold at London 2012 with a 17.81m best effort
2. Learn for the future
“I recognise this life is not normal, but it is important to remember that one day this phase of my life will be over, so it is important to take away bits and pieces from the sport to take into the next chapter of my life. I treat track and field like my internship for my next life.
“One example would be at the beginning of the year I lost my sponsorship deal and everyone said ‘C’mon Christian you’ll get another sponsor.’ Yet for six months I had no sponsor. I thought this is what it must feel like to be unemployed. I had no income coming in.
“Now this is not an abnormal situation for someone, but I tried to find the positives in this to help motivate me and keep believing that one day people will want to hire me.
“One day my track and field career will be over and I’ll have no real work experience either. Fortunately, I am responsible with money. I don’t own a house or have kids and I haven’t owned a car in three years, which helped [financially], but this period was mentally tough. I had to remember that some athletes go years without having a sponsor and just travel from meet to meet. I had to make sacrifices, but the process was a good life lesson for me.”
FOUR FOR FUN: Taylor was part of the gold medal winning American 4x400m team at the 2014 World Relays
3. You won’t be on top forever
“Even Usain Bolt, the most clutch athlete out there, has the occasional off day. I have learned that to be human you are not going to be on top all the time and when you are not you have to find a way to deal with that.
“I won the 2011 world title and 2012 Olympic Games and thought I would win every championship from here on in. Yet Moscow [2013 world champs] did not go well for me [Taylor finished fourth with a best effort of 17.20m].
“I realised in order to improve I needed to have fun again. The college system was very team orientated and had been a lot of fun, yet I’d found life as a professional athlete was at times very lonely. You were an individual very much on your own.
“You can find yourself often in the middle of a random city, eating foods you have never tried before. What I realised after Moscow is I needed to find the sport fun again. So in 2014 I decided I wanted to run the 4x400m at World Relays – what better fun can you have than a trip to the Bahamas? That year I also came close to winning the Diamond League in both the long jump and triple jump.
“That year was a game changer for me. It was rare for me not be smiling. I was having fun again and it reminded me why I loved the sport.”