On Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, Florida Gators greats Christian Taylor and Will Claye won gold and silver in the men’s triple jump in the Olympics.
Taylor and Claye renewed a rivalry that has come to define the triple jump this decade in Rio, with Taylor once again edging his former teammate to win gold with a leap of 17.86 meters. Claye’s 17.76-meter jump was good for his second consecutive silver medal in the event, giving the Gators a second straight Olympic gold-silver sweep in the event — the first 1-2 repeat by two men in the event’s Olympic history.
The result wasn’t a shock, given how Taylor and Claye have dominated American and global competition in the event since early this decade, when a see-sawing battle between the two at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships saw a familiar 1-2 finish for Taylor and Claye, with Claye nearly three feet better than the third-place finisher.
Their rivalry had previously produced a duel at the 2012 Olympics in London, where Claye overtook Italy’s Fabrizio Donato to lead the event before Taylor skied for a world-leading mark to win a gold medal at just 22 years of age, leaving Claye to take silver.
On Tuesday, they dispensed with their competition early, making their best jumps on their first final attempt. No one in the 12-man final could unseat Taylor and Claye from the top two spots on any of his five subsequent attempts, but Taylor soared for 17.77-meter jumps that would have won gold by a millimeter twice, and Claye added a second leap of 17.61 meters that was still better than the 17.58-meter jump that earned China’s Dong Bin the low spot on the podium.
Taylor and Claye are the fourth and fifth Americans with multiple triple jump Olympic medals, and Taylor is the fifth man to defend his title. Taylor is also the first American in more than a century to repeat as a triple jump gold medalist, following the lead of 1900 and 1904 gold-striker Myer Prinstein.
Only one man, Viktor Saneyev of the Soviet Union, has won three straight triple jump gold medals. Taylor will likely aim to match that mark at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Claye won’t have a chance to follow up his double in the triple jump and long jump — in which he took bronze in London — because his long jump at the U.S. trials earlier this year fell short of the Olympic qualifying mark by just a centimeter.
But he may have scored a more important personal victory on the day, having proposed to his girlfriend, former Olympian Queen Harrison, moments after winning the silver.
Current and former Florida athletes now have eight medals at the 2016 Olympics — five gold, two silver, and one bronze — with all of them coming from Americans. That tally would put the Gators 13th in the official medal count, behind 12 nations that have six or more golds.