Day Three - Sunday, September 29th
Claye Claims SilverBy James O'Brien, reporting from Doha
Believe it or not, it’s downright chilly in the Khalifa Stadium in Doha this evening. It’s actually 92 degrees; but the organizers have figured out how to air-condition an outdoor stadium, and they’re doing it very effectively. Significantly, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world, so paying the ConEd bill - maybe it’s QonEd here - is not a concern. Crime is also very low in Qatar, presumably because when everybody’s loaded you’re thinking more about hiding it than stealing it.
That said - and in the neatest segue of all time - the NYAC’s Will Claye came to Qatar intending to steal some hardware, preferably gold. On Friday, he qualified for this evening’s triple jump final in perfunctory fashion, signifying that his superb form of earlier this season could continue through these championships.
On June 29th of this year in Long Beach, CA, the NYAC man reached a stunning 18.14m/59’6.25”, the third longest triple jump in history. Significantly, the man with the second longest TJ in history (18.21m/59’9”) is Christian Taylor, Claye’s college team mate at the University of Florida, his US team-mate here in Doha and his arch-rival for the entirety of his career. Taylor has the better championship record (two Olympic gold medals and three world championships titles; Claye has two Olympic triple jump silvers, and one world championships silver and two bronzes) and the better head-to-head record. But Claye has that monster leap from this year, plus another from his win at the Paris Diamond League meet in late August (18.04m/59’2.25m). Taylor’s PB came back in 2015. It’s no surprise, then, that talk around the stadium is of a world record, a mark currently standing to Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards and set at 18.29m/60’0.25” back in 1995. Just for the heck of it, measure off 60’ in your apartment. Odds are, you’ll have to ask the neighbors if you can come in. It’s massive.
Jumping second tonight, Claye opened with a solid 17.61m/57’9.5”, a mark that saw him in the lead at the end of the first round. Taylor fouled. On his second attempt Claye went still further: 17.75m/58’1.75”, solidifying his place at the head of the field. Taylor fouled one more time. In round three, Claye hit 17.53m; more significantly, Taylor finally got one on the board, a 17.42m mark that installed him in fourth place and, crucially, allowed him the three further jumps allotted to the leading eight jumpers.
On his fourth attempt, Taylor showed why he came here. Launching off the board, he came to land 17.86m/58’7.25” later, moving into the pole position. Claye responded with a stellar 17.74m/58’2.5”, a 2cm improvement on his second round jump; but, the tables had been turned and, with two jumps remaining, the pressure was turned up to 11. (Ref: “This is Spinal Tap.” Google).
Taylor was not messing around. His fifth attempt went out to a serious 17.92m/58’9.5”. Claye responded with an exact duplicate of his previous round’s attempt: 17.74m/58’2.5”. One jump left. All to play for.
Being in second position going into the sixth and final round, Claye had the penultimate jump of the competition, the last attempt going to the leader, Taylor. It was do or die, but a valiant attempt saw Claye’s 17.66m/57’11.25” 26cms short of Taylor’s leading mark. The story was over. Taylor scored 17.54m/57’6.5” on his last attempt, but that was irrelevant. He held the gold medal position, with the NYAC man in second. For the record, Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango stole into the bronze medal position with his final leap of 17.66m/57’11.25”, the same distance Claye had reached on his last attempt.
“I walked away with the gold. I wanted a farther jump, but I am grateful for the win,” asserted the winner.
For Claye, it was bittersweet. “The runway was very fast and I had to adapt and slow down a bit at the run up. It was a matter of hitting the board properly and that was what Christian managed better today. I do not want to let people down and I know my friends and family will be proud of me. Maybe there will be some people saying I should have jumped further. But I am grateful to win a medal.”
A silver medal, to be precise, adding luster to the gold won by Deanna Price in the women’s hammer throw yesterday. Deanna’s medal ceremony took place this evening. There can hardly have ever been a more effusive, grateful and inspiring winner. Plus, she is a big-time hugger, as I found out. By the way, in case you missed it, Deanna Price is the only American woman in history to have won a major championships (meaning world or Olympic) title. Further, she is the first American, male or female, to have reached those heights since the legendary Hal Connolly won the Olympic hammer gold medal in 1956.
Rachel Seaman was the only other NYAC athlete in action today. Representing Canada, she contested the women’s 20K race walk, which kicked off at 11:30pm. For that reason, you will see her results in tomorrow’s blog.
Tomorrow’s schedule (Monday, September 30th) will see NYAC action focused on the qualifying rounds of the women’s javelin and the final of the men’s discus, featuring Kara Winger and Sam Mattis, respectively. It will be an extremely tall order to Mattis to claim some hardware; however, he has seen some inspirational winged foot performances over the last two days. Additionally, he may draw on the inspirational words of the greatest Olympic discus thrower of all time, Al Oerter: “Great things are expected of you when you wear the winged foot.”