Many athletes experience the highs and lows of competition, but few have been to the extremes of American quarter-miler Angelo Taylor. Taylor burst onto the scene in 1999 when he formed part of the triumphant American quartet at the world championships in Seville after failing to qualify for the hurdles final. But it was the following year that he made his biggest global impact.
There are certain track and field events in which the United States have an iron grip, and the men’s 400m hurdles is one of them. Until Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic won the 2004 gold in Athens, Americans had taken the title at every Olympics since the boycott of Moscow in 1980.
In Sydney 2000, Taylor dragged himself over the line in first place, just three hundredths of a second from the Saudi runner Hadi Somayli. He also ran in the preliminary rounds of the 4x400m relay which the United States would go on to win.
However, after Athens Taylor’s career seemed to spiral out of control. Sore shins and trouble with the police saw his training regime hit hard, and more pain was to come when it was discovered the Jerome Young, a member of the relay team with Taylor in Sydney, had failed a drugs test and the medal was to be removed from the US quartet. So deep was the trough into which had fallen, Taylor resumed his career as an electrician with all hope seemingly lost of rediscovering his world-beating form.
But at the 2007 world championships in Osaka he again struck gold in the relay and at the Olympic trials the following year he booked his ticket on the flight to Beijing. It was a far from vintage class of hurdlers that convened in China and Taylor showed he had the ability and experience to pull through. He was the first athlete to break 48 seconds in the competition in the semis and nailed his best career performance in the final to lead home a U.S. sweep of the medals ahead of Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson. He followed in the footsteps of American greats Glenn Davis and Ed Moses as the only athletes to have won the Olympic 400m hurdles twice.