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The 26-year-old world champion stamped his authority on the competition with his very first jump, sailing out to 17.86m in the Rio sunshine to set a standard his rivals were unable to match. Team-mate Will Claye leapt 17.76m with his first jump to take silver and reprise the London 2012 one-two, with world indoor champion Dong Bin taking bronze behind the American duo.
Claye, who beat Taylor at the US Olympic trials, pushed hard to overturn the defending champion’s advantage, and nudged the 18-metre line with his third jump, only to be red-flagged. Prowling the track and muttering to himself between jumps, Taylor proved too strong however, also recording two jumps of 17.77, which would also have been enough for gold.
Having been forced by a chronic knee injury to switch his takeoff leg following his London triumph, Taylor was delighted to be back on top of the Olympic podium for the second time in four years: “On the bus I said: ‘Leave it all out there’. I wanted it so much. It came together. The stars aligned. I wanted the world record but it wasn’t to be. I’ll keep pushing for it. It’s been there so long.”
Describing his feelings on winning a second silver, Claye said: “That felt amazing. To come back and be the No2 jumper in the world again is a great feeling. I’ve worked so hard these past four years. We all get knocked down. We all go through storms, but if you make it through that storm, things like this happen.”
After the event Claye made a beeline for the stands to propose to his girlfriend, USA hurdler and sprinter Queen Harrison, who competed in the 400m hurdles at Beijing 2008. To cap a memorable day for the triple jumper, she gratefully accepted. “I was hoping nobody proposed to her first before I did,” joked an elated Claye.
In winning what was China’s first Olympic triple jump medal, Dong leapt to a personal best of 17.58, also on his first attempt. Speaking after his ground-breaking performance, the Chinese jumper said: “I was pleased to make history with China’s first medal in the event.”
Dong’s countryman Cao Shuo, the reigning Asian Games champion, finished fourth in 17.13m, with Colombia’s John Murillo fifth on 17.09. The only other man to clear the 17-metre mark was Beijing 2008 gold medallist Nelson Evora of Portugal, who finished sixth with a best of 17.03m.