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Comeback Nearly Complete For Triple Jumper Christian Taylor

by Al Daniel

Christian Taylor celebrates after winning at men's triple jump at the ISTAF 2020 athletics meeting on Sept. 13, 2020 in Berlin.

 

Christian Taylor’s pinned tweet, the welcome mat to his Twitter feed, only hints at the year he’s had.
It harkens back to the events of May 19, 2021, when an Achilles’ heel rupture derailed the triple jumper’s go-round at the Golden Spikes in the Czech Republic, and with it his bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal in Tokyo two months later.
By Nov. 1, Taylor was tersely tweeting, “Character building season.” He punctuated that thinly veiled euphemism for adversity with what is called the “angry face” emoji.
But typically, and especially lately, Taylor does not fume in the flesh, online or by phone. He is teeming with faith, and exalting the all-star team of supporters who have reared, rooted, and sometimes razzed him back to competitive form.
“It’s actually been a tremendous year, believe it or not,” he said. The tear in his tendon proved an opening to new and enhanced relationships plus personal and professional upgrades.
“I’m such a believer in the support system you have,” he said, “and the people you surround yourself with really mold you as a person.”
On a literal level, those surroundings were sparse at the saga’s painful outset. Taylor admits he vaguely felt elements of his game were off in the days leading up to his injury. When it happened, he phoned his wife — Austrian world-class hurdler Beate Schrott, who he went nine months without seeing in person due to COVID-19 restrictions — from the ambulance.
“Saying it out loud just made it real, (but) it still didn’t sink in,” he recalled. “It really didn’t hit me until I looked down and saw (my foot) in a cast.”
Within a day, surgery put Taylor on the path to recovery. From afar, via Instagram, Schrott was just as swift to tout her husband’s elasticity. When the opportunity arrived, she would do her part to see that resilience through to its ceiling.
But before he could refocus on heights, Taylor widened his network. He had family — both home and athletic — and he had his pastors. In the last year, he has naturally welcomed medical personnel to that fold, along with additional sporting advisors and the perspectives they impart.
“I’ve never worked with USOPC more than now,” he noted. “It’s been really, really important and actually groundbreaking.”

Christian Taylor celebrates after winning at men's triple jump at the ISTAF 2020 athletics meeting on Sept. 13, 2020 in Berlin.

 

Through the proverbial little things, Taylor has honed a habit of highlighting what he is still missing, both in his means and his ends. Before the injury, it was easy to simply think about retaining his regal position at the Olympics and World Athletic Championships. Since then, one silver slot has come to stand out.
In 1995, Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards became the first man to clear 60 feet (18.29 meters). With his 18.21-meter vault in 2015, Taylor sits 0.08 behind Edwards for their sport’s all-time absolute apex.
“I felt like I was really at a place where people were just happy, content with what we had,” he said of his pre-injury outlook. Then he realized, “I still had the lingering second-of-all-time position. I still wanted to chase that world record.”
As much as he wants a world championship gold at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field this July, he is realistic about that and the record’s prospects.
“It’s a process,” he said, “and I’m gonna eat a lot of humble pie this summer.”
His support team has helped him acquire that taste. It started when he heard his surgeon say, “‘Don’t be laying in bed feeling sorry for yourself.’” It has continued with Schrott, in his words, saying, “Yeah, the workout is not finished. Get out and find a way to make it happen.”
Just like regular check-ins with his parents, USOPC trainers and chiropractor, Schrott’s tough love in those moments is a testament to Taylor’s progress from when he had her backing while “literally learning to walk again.” Even now, she is his go-to for disclosing and discussing the discontents he would have previously muzzled.
The relationship and its role in Taylor’s road to recovery has been crucial to his learning “to be strong but also be weak.” That helps to explain why he hesitates to declare himself all the way “back” ahead of his return to formal competition.
“Eugene is just around the corner,” he said, “but my eyes are really set towards Paris.”
To be sure, he still embraces his status as the three-time reigning world champion. He still intends to make it four.
But whereas most pious performers and athletes withhold their gratitude until they are summoned to a stage or podium, Taylor plans “to celebrate in advance” as he breaks out a new pair of resiliency-themed spikes.
“Thank you, God, for that tear,” he concluded. “It allowed me to turn into, I hope, a better person in the end.”


Al Daniel is a freelance features writer and contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @WriterAlDaniel.
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