Christian Bosse (CB): Today it’s my pleasure to be joined by Christian Taylor. Christian is a double Olympic champion in the triple jump – 2012 and 2016. He is also triple World Champion in the triple jump. Interestingly Christian is also 400-meter Junior World champion, four times 400 meters and also World Relay Champion 4 x 400 meters in 2014. So, you have explosive power and you have stamina.
Christian Taylor (CT): Yes. I am mixing it up. I think the balance for sure helps me in the triple jump, but most of all it just helps me mentally have a competitive edge over my competitors.
CB: Welcome Christian.
CT: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
His darkest moment
CB: Christian, in your life as an athlete what was your darkest moment?
CT: I think the most difficult part of my career was when I was 24 at the World Championships. By this time I was actually reigning World Champ, reigning Olympic Champ, so to have these two titles back-to-back, I was feeling great and ended up going to Moscow to the World Championships in 2013, but was having a lot of tendonitis issues, a lot of struggle with my knees.
And throughout the whole season, I was more focused on staying healthy than I was on competing. And so, most of the training was what can we do to keep inflammation down? What can we do that we don’t irritate or injure myself to the point that we can make it to World Championships?
This thinking is not the way to reach world records, to win gold medals. When you’re thinking of maintenance instead of the competitiveness it’s very difficult. So, my coach, Rana [Reider] and I, we really did what we had to do to get through the season and ended up with the fourth place.
And you know what it’s like to not be on the podium, especially to be the first person off the podium – it took everything from me. And so, this was a very, very low point in my career, point in my life actually.
To not be on the podium, especially to be the first person off the podium – it took everything from me.
And then it came to the decision where we decided to actually switch legs, which was a bit of a risk, but we thought it’s the only way that maybe we can challenge the record again, that maybe we can challenge ourselves to be at the professional level again.
And now, many years later more titles have come and we’ve even jumped further. And so, it was a bit of a risk but I’m grateful for this low because it set up for many more highs.
CB: Listening around a little bit, I did my research and I read that you switched legs. Some people consider that to be impossible, so somehow you made the impossible possible. How did you do that?
CT: At the end of the day, if you have the right support anything is possible really. I’m now reading about the Wright brothers and hearing about their journey of flight. Things don’t just happen overnight, things don’t happen on the first try, but if you have the right support things can be possible.
Things don’t just happen overnight, things don’t happen on the first try, but if you have the right support things can be possible.
The Wright brothers had each other. I have my family, Rana, my coach, so really we’re staying focused on the dream, staying focused on the task at hand.
And so, there were many meetings. I was barely jumping 17 meters coming from almost jumping 18, and so that was quite a big difference. And it’s really that you focus on the positive in every single competition.
And so at first, I said if I can make it to the sand again it’s a good start because now I’m jumping from the other foot. And then you just set really tangible goals and work your way back. Or actually, maybe sometimes it pushes you too far and then you decide, “This is not for me.” But my dreams and my passion was so strong and really having the support group around me was what actually brought me back to the top.
My dreams and my passion was so strong, that it actually brought me back to the top.
CB: And I can imagine that in these moments when things aren’t going that great that doubts are creeping into your head. How do you deal with that?
CT: Every day you think, “What am I doing? Is this really worth it?” For me, I was World and Olympic Champion, it was actually okay to walk away. At 21/22 years, I reached my dream. But for me, it just seemed too early, and I told myself “No, my story cannot end here.”
I told myself “My story cannot end here.”
I maybe have the opportunity to be an example for the next generation, for other athletes that are really going through something, whatever it may be, but can show them that really if you want something bad enough, if that fire is really burning enough that you find a way to make it happen.
And so, this is really what kept me driving when those negative thoughts would creep in and those sleepless nights because I’m thinking, “Can I do it? Can I do it? Can I do it?” Once I get to training, and like I said I had my coach, and I come home and I have these thoughts and I call my sister and she’s like, “Hey, don’t give up, stay with it.” These are the moments that really stick with you.
CB: I guess I can still hear the fire burning in you. What did you learn from that moment?
CT: I think with whether watching athletics or being an athlete you can learn about mankind. You can learn the strength that we all have within.
I think this is really special that sometimes you can watch a performance and think, “Wow, what an out-of-body experience.” But it’s really that this athlete just taps into their full potential.
And so, for me this is something I will actually take into life after track, life post my career. It’s really shown me that I actually am stronger mentally and physically than I once believed.
I actually am stronger mentally and physically than I once believed.
I thought maybe to get to 18 meters would be the dream. I couldn’t even imagine being an Olympian. I said if I even got to the Olympics I would wear the opening ceremony outfit every single day.
But then you make it and you think, “Wow, I have the potential to be more. Maybe I was selling myself short”. And so, really these moments teach you actually what you’re really made of.
His best moment
CB: What was your best moment?
CT: My proudest moment for sure would be the Rio Olympics 2016. There I jumped 18 meters again and I was World Champion again. And the Olympics, they’re really like nothing else and it was really defending this title.
There was a lot of emotion, a lot of expectations, a lot of pressure from sponsors, family, whatever it may be. It was a lot of pull and I didn’t want to let anyone down.
And now, learning what I know, I know this should not be the focus, but at that time it was. I really wanted to do it for everyone else, and this put so much pressure on myself.
I really wanted to do it for everyone else.
But in the end, it was so rewarding to be on the podium, and really just right in front were my friends, my family from all over the world. And even coming back to Papendal afterward, I felt like this was even my family there. And so, I felt really so proud that I can make so many people proud. That’s a moment that stirs in me even now
CB: You said you shouldn’t focus on that and I think that’s what we hear, you shouldn’t do it for someone else. Do you think your motivation was higher because you did it for someone else as if you would have done it for yourself? It’s a hypothetical question, I know that, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
CT: I just think when you’re doing it for yourself you could be more focused. The drive is different, the effort is different. In 2012 I thought, if I could be Olympic Champion it would be fantastic, it would be a dream come true, really my career would be signed off, I could really lay my head down saying, “I did it all.”
And in 2016 it was now I didn’t want to let people down. So, I was not even focused on my performance but just not disappointing people.
And I think going into a competition like this, it’s not healthy, but it’s also not the right mindset. If I did not win, if I came second I would have felt so defeated, I would have felt like I let others down, and in reality, it’s not the truth.
If I give my best effort I think all my friends and family actually would have celebrated with me just as much. And so, I think this was really something I had to learn through experience and something I’m grateful for and what it has passed on.
CB: What did you learn from that moment?
CT: I learned for preparation for Tokyo 2020 that the preparation is only between Rana and myself, that we will set a plan and we just stick with this, and when this moment comes, to really be in the moment, really capitalize and seize this moment and to be a three-time Olympian. I never imagined being one-time Olympian, so to even say this for me is very exciting. But that is what I focus on, really take away all the positives and just live in that moment.
Why he likes to seek uncomfortable situations
CB: I heard you say in an interview, I think it was a video interview, you’re always looking for ways to make yourself uncomfortable in order to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. How do you do that?
CT: Just challenge yourself. Really I’m a sponge – whether in the weight room, whether on the track, whether I’m traveling the world. And they say if you stop learning you’re dead. There are some places I can go and see an exercise and think, “I’ve never done this, I’ve never thought about this. Why not incorporate this?” It’s insanity to do the same thing and expect different results, and so this is the mentality that really somebody maybe next to me or somebody across the world may have a solution, may have an answer that can help a weakness of mine that maybe can help me just go a bit further.
Just challenge yourself. To keep the edge you have to find these new things.
And so, this is now a challenge I constantly put against myself, and sometimes again Rana is saying, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” But I think really if you’re not pushing the barriers, if you’re not changing things up, your body is so adaptive, the brain is so smart and doing the same thing over and over then at some point it just becomes dull.
And so, to keep sharp, to keep this edge you have to find these new things. And I think with this really continually thinking in my training when I get to a championship for me I think, “Wow, I’ve seen so much, I’ve done so many different things in my preparation, I’m ready.” And this is the confidence I take into these competitions.
His advice to a younger Christian Taylor
CB: If you could go back in time 10 or 15 years, what advice would you give a younger Christian Taylor?
CT: This is a really great one. The number one thing for sure would be “Slow down, really enjoy the team, enjoy the barbecues”. When I was younger my dream was the Olympics, but the thing is, I said I would do everything for the Olympics and this is it. I’d rather spend a weekend on the track than a weekend with friends.
I’d rather spend a weekend on the track than a weekend with friends.
And in reality it’s about balance, you have to really enjoy some time with your friends also and sacrifice for the track. And so, for me, it would be “Just take it in strides.” Really be in these moments and know that at the end it will come, that I have the tools that can get there, but just to really enjoy the moment.
CB: You do that more nowadays?
CT: Now I do it. Now I’m in Vienna with my girlfriend and I love the city. Even when I was at Papendal, Arnhem it was so cozy, but to be honest, every weekend my girlfriend and I were really exploring Holland. We’d go to Noordwijk, we’d go to Hawthorn, Den Bosch, every weekend we would go for a jazz festival, walks on the beach really just to get out and enjoy life.
We have the opportunity to live abroad, and why not capitalize on that? Why would I wait till I’m done with my career to say, “I wish I traveled more”? Why not do it now? I’m traveling as it is, this is my lifestyle, so why not make the most of it? And for this, I’m really grateful to now take this on.
CB: I also saw that the fire of becoming a professional athlete got lit when you saw a football World Cup. Is that correct?
CT: It’s true.
CB: Out of interest, which football World Cup was it?
CT: This is so long ago. I really have no idea even which year this was.
CB: Who won the World Cup? Maybe we’ll get closer to the answer.
CT: This is so long ago I never had somebody asked me this.
CB: I saw it in an interview and you said, “I was so excited. I saw them take their shirts off.”
CT: I remember really just having Brazil jerseys and being in my uncle’s basement. My dad worked for Delta when I was younger and they had a soccer league themselves, and we traveled to San Marino one time to play a tournament, we went to Rome, to Malta, so real football/soccer was my life, and I just thought about what would it be like to be at the top of this level. We went to tournaments and we traveled around the world and I thought, “What a cool life.”
To think millions of people are watching the World Cup and you can score and celebrate with your team, really from the person that scores to the goalie I said, “This is fantastic. This must be a dream come true.” And so, I really thought football was going to be my future, but in reality obviously, it became track and field.
And then after this Usain Bolt really struck it just for me, I can say really watching him in Beijing 2008 I thought, “Wow. This guy has now changed track and field for our generation.” And this got me pumped thinking maybe one day I can jump far enough that people will sit in front of the TV waiting to see what I will do.
His success habits
CB: What are the habits that make you a successful person or athlete?
CT: As I speak about it now, it’s really finding balance, so it’s really important to have fun in everything you do regardless of what it is. I think finding a balance between working hard, dedication and actually just having fun, and I think also just finding something else to do outside of your sport.
Finding a balance between working hard, dedication and actually just having fun.
For me, right now I’m even finishing my degree. Once I get off the track I’m already thinking, “What exam do I have next? What do I need to be preparing for? What paper do I have with the group assignment?” Things like this I think really gives me good separation that I’m not almost bringing my work home.
And this was something I struggled with before that like I said, when I was injured I was always constantly thinking, “Will I be back? Will I be back?” Watching films of myself, thinking, constantly comparing myself to myself. And this was so draining, I was not able to sleep, I had really no separation, no home-work balance. And now, when I leave the track, that’s it; when I walk through those doors, that’s it. Now I become Christian the student, Christian the brother, Christian really. And if you ask me about the track, we can talk about it, but I’m not thinking about it.
CB: What degree are you pursuing?
CT: Right now, Sports Management. Originally I was doing Hospitality and Tourism because I just love to travel and to surf. But then actually my passion went towards Sports Management, and I don’t know, I really have a passion for helping the youth, helping the next generation hopefully not make the same mistakes I made. And so, I don’t think this is really directly into coaching, but if it’s mentoring, if it’s whatever it may be, just helping sport go into a more positive direction.
I really have a passion for helping the youth, helping the next generation hopefully not make the same mistakes I made.
CB: And more or less, how many hours a week do you spend on studying?
CT: Normally I would say four hours a day. I would say on average no less than 30 hours, 30/35 hours because Sunday is off, but every single day I’m at least putting four hours in. And for me, it’s great because I really come alive in the night, so I really can study through the night and have the later practices.
CB: You make all of us look stupid [laughter] most people have a full-time job and think that’s too much, and you study full time and are a professional athlete.
CT: Well, the cool thing is my full-time job is athletics, and so it’s a little different than if I had to work a nine-to-five and then go home; it would not be possible. But for me, why not use this period for this?
Why he likes to simplify things
CB: Awesome. I want to talk about habits and successful habits. You mentioned you like to simplify things and simplify your life, which I try to do myself also. Talk us through that approach.
CT: The thing is at one point of my life it was about having things, it was about what I was doing, who I was doing it with, trying to take on as many things as possible. And I only found out that this made me tired. I was forever chasing something but never getting it. And it’s really just a change of perspective, and for me, it really was about simplifying.
I was forever chasing something but never getting it.
When I was living at Papendal I bought a hammock for the first time in my life and I thought, “If the weather is so nice, why not go outside and study out there?” And really my roommates thought it was a bit funny at first, but I thought if I’m going to study, if I’m going to do something I enjoy why not be in a different environment that makes me also happy?
And so, it was really just about just simplifying things that I don’t have to be everything and do everything, but if I just focus on the little things that made me happy, that’s just the most important.
How to focus
CB: And also, you just mentioned studying, another thing I’ve noted down is that you said you’re good at focusing. Is that something that comes naturally to you? The discussion of nature versus nurture, is it something you’ve got inside you? Or is it something you trained for and acquired?
CT: I really believe it’s 50/50. As I said, football was always a part of my life, and so really from the time my dad was training me, he would always say every training, every practice, “Focus on one thing, one task. If it’s how to drop a ball if it’s how to position yourself, whatever it may be, focus on one thing.”
And then I really took this and started to read a lot more about just mindset, whether business mindset, athletic mindset, whatever it may be. And I thought, well, the most successful people are the ones that are actually quite driven towards one thing, so if they have one vision, one mission, one thing they want to achieve, whether that’s daily or whether that’s the grand thing, they just remain focused on this.
The most successful people are the ones that are driven towards one thing, and they remain focused on this.
And so, I just thought, “Well, let me start incorporating that into my training, let me start incorporating that into my day-to-day.” And I thought every day if I can really just set a goal and reach that instead of having 50.
I’m really constantly writing on Post-it notes and journaling and things like this, but I think instead of trying to get 20 things done in a day, if there are five things, that I say really would make me feel that I killed this day, focus on that, and then if the rest comes, it comes instead of water it down, trying to do so much and, as I said, feeling tired, feeling exhausted, and still not feeling complete. So, it was really a bit of both, that my father really planted the seed early, but then I took it upon myself to do additional reading and I have been blown away from the power of the mind when it comes to healing, when it comes to really so many things, just channeling your energy in the right way; the brain is so powerful.
CB: There is actually a book, it’s called The One Thing by Gary Keller. It describes pretty much what you just explained. It’s a really cool read.
CT: And who is this Dutchman that is going crazy, going high to go into the water? I think you know who I’m speaking of. He’s talking about really controlling your body temperature and things like that.
CB: He does crazy things. Wim Hof is the name.
CT: Yes, there you go. So, yes I think things like this, studying people like this can really help you achieve that.
His morning routine
CB: Do you have a morning routine? How do you get ready for today?
CT: Every day I actually watch my church service from back in Florida. For me, this is really a happy place for me. I’m very close with my pastors, my church, and so every day I try to watch them back at home. It’s a really good way to get me pumped and energized.
Coffee for sure, I really love coffee with normal breakfast, and then after this, I actually like to watch one or two comic shows, really just silly sitcoms, because for me it just gets me in the mindset to not take anything too serious, that enjoy the day. And when you start a day, every single day with a laugh, I think it’s quite healthy.
When you start a day, every single day with a laugh, I think it’s quite healthy.
CB: You said you’re very active in the night or you are productive in the night. Are you a morning person, or a night person? Or both?
CT: No. Only night.
CB: Getting up is a challenge?
CT: Getting up is a challenge, so this is why the routine is so important. The night is so open, I can do so many things, but in the morning it’s very, very sticking to the same.
CB: Therefore the coffee.
How to prepare for important moments
CB: How do you prepare for important moments?
CT: To be honest, every moment is different, and so depending on where I am in my personal life affects the preparation for these moments.
So, for instance, in 2012 my coach and I actually went to Salzburg, Austria, and it was really an escape. I could have gone to the camp with the US team, I could have gone to the opening ceremony, but I was not ready. I was so nervous, if somebody said, “Olympics” that really I was wetting myself. And my coach said, “If this is really what’s going on, we need to just get you away.” And we went out there and just mentally escaped.
This was the perfect way of grounding me and getting me prepared for this championship. In Rio 2016 I was actually with the Dutch team and we went to Portugal, and for me, it was so great to go to the beach with people. So, now the nerves were different, but I knew that actually I just needed to have fun. And we would just go to just beach resorts or actually just hanging out by the pool. And this fun actually distracted me from the Olympic nerves. And so it’s really just knowing yourself, having a lot of self-awareness and knowing how to prepare for that.
CB: And then, for example, triple jump is a fairly short duration, so once you start your run-up there’s very little you can do. So, you need to be able to be on point before you start the run-up. How do you do that?
CT: Really just muscle memory, and also just consistency through training. So, multiple times a week my coach and I are working on the approach, multiple times a week. How you practice is how you perform.
How you practice is how you perform.
It’s crazy to think, but if I’m playing around in training and doing little movements, I found that these movements have also come into the competition, and I thought, “What happened?” But you are creating a habit, you are creating muscle memory, and so it’s really being careful that how you train is really going to affect the big picture.
And so, just being really attentive to these movements, the way I am thinking and mentally not just going through the motion, but putting myself in a competition, in a championship, so when this moment comes I’m fully prepared.
CB: And in the 2012 Olympics, you started off with two false, right? So, the pressure was on.
CT: Yes. Really, I tell you that the nerves were like no other. I wanted to jump the world record instead of actually being in the Olympic final. I thought I’d give it everything, but this excitement got the best of me.
I wanted to jump the world record, the excitement got the best of me.
And then this was the moment actually when my coach said, “Stop”, and we watched the 800-meter final which was actually a world record race and the best 800 of all time. And he said, “Just do what you’ve prepared for.”
And this is what relaxed me, calm me down because then I thought, “I don’t need some spectacular performance, I am ready, I’ve done the preparation.” And this confidence is what got me to the final, and then my fourth jump ended up being actually the winning jump, that got me the Olympic title.
How to overcome setbacks
CB: How do you overcome setbacks?
CT: Just focus on the next task. In our church, we say a setback is just a setup for the next best thing. And so, if training is going well, I have a small injury I don’t think, “How do I get back to the point?” I think, “This is where I am now; how can I get back healthy?” And just focus on getting healthy to then return to this point.
Just focus on the next task, a setback is just a setup for the next best thing.
But I think so many people try to leap, no pun intended, but really to leap to getting back to where they were or leap to where they expect or think they are, but it’s not true.
You’re exactly where you need to be, and this is why you have to trust your coach, trust your trainer, trust yourself that you three or two or however it may be, that you guys are working together and you are also prepared that everything does not always go as planned, everything is not always perfect.
And so, this setback may be an opportunity to slow down, it may be an opportunity to see what movement you may be doing incorrectly. I had so many moments that I was in the best shape of my life, and maybe I had a hamstring cramp, maybe my quad tightened. Really, things happen, it’s really part of athletics and I realize actually this was an opportunity for me to slow down, to relax and not get ahead of myself, that missing a competition was not the end of the world. And it was this thinking of being patient that actually prevented me from getting this injury again.
A setback is an opportunity to slow down, and not get ahead of myself.
CB: Look at the bigger picture is what you’re saying, right?
CT: Yes, exactly.
His role model
CB: Do you have a role model?
CT: I know it’s cheesy, but my father. He was my coach, he’s really my best friend, we’re speaking almost every single day and I’m really trying to learn so much personal but also business side how he structured himself to work and have a family balance. Things like this are really important to me, and actually how I want to live my life in and out of track.
CB: That’s also for a second interview because some of the athletes I’ve spoken to, successful athletes, they have a very good relationship with their parents and it’s very interesting phenomena. I don’t know whether it’s a phenomenon, but I think it interesting that there is a strong family bond.
CT: Unfortunately now I think it is more of a phenomenon because the family structure, the sense of family is becoming almost thinner, is becoming weaker. And I think quality family time and a mother and a father taking the time to raise and nurture and plant seeds that can help them have a better future, I think is actually becoming more and rarer. It’s sad but it’s the reality.
CB: Yes. I’m afraid you’re right.
The best advice he has received
CB: What is the best advice you’ve received, and who gave it to you?
CT: To be honest, right now in my life, my friend Wolfgang Becker who is in Salzburg, he’s running the center in Salzburg, he actually just told me that everything is about priority. I actually spent right before New Year’s with him and his family and I said, “I’m going into a new year, I’m feeling stressed, I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m feeling that track is good, school is good, but I’m trying to juggle so much.” And he said, “It’s about priority. Your whole day structure is about priority, what is most important.” And this for me has actually helped me day in, day out. And so, really he has been now a mentor to me and someone I’m very grateful that did pass this on to me.
CB: So, you have set priorities is what I understand.
CT: Yes, exactly. If training is so important and there are so many things that are on my calendar, if training is truly so important to me I will set up a block of the day to train. So, I need to eat three meals; I told him sometimes maybe I’m eating one meal a day and he said, “That’s because you’ve made it this way.”
It’s really we’re not so busy, we have no reason to be stressed. But it’s because we create calendars that are really hour to hour to hour to hour when what happens if something goes over? What happens if you have traffic? What happens? And so, this change of thinking has really helped me come into the new year now.
We have no reason to be stressed, it’s because we create calendars that are really hour to hour to hour to hour.
CB: And I would fully agree with you. Everyone takes that for granted, that training is a priority and all these things, training, nutrition, rest is a priority. But I’ve seen it so many times, whatever people take for granted is something that gets lost somewhere and then somehow something is more important than training and stuff like that. And it comes full circle with the simplification approach we talked about earlier, at least for me, so it is really good.
CT: You said it perfectly.
A typical training day
CB: What does a typical training day look like?
CT: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays I’m doing gym and training, but always running first. And the structure of the week is fairly similar, but I am jumping two times a week, I’m running pretty much all the other days. Thursdays and Sundays I’m having off, but a typical day would actually be training at 11:00 and from this training I would be on the track from 11:00 to maybe 1:30 or 2:00, have some lunch in the cafeteria, and then from there, maybe at 3:30/4:00 go to the gym for another hour and a half, two hours. And then that’s it, then the rest of the day is quite open.
CB: What time do you get up?
CT: Regardless of the training time it’s always two and a half hours before I need to train, which gives me enough time.
When I was at Papendal I could walk I think 400 meters to the training, so it was very easy. But regardless, it just gives you enough time to do everything you need to do to… as I said, I’m watching church which is 45 minutes, I’m watching two shows which is an hour, and then having breakfast, doing all these things, so it just gives you enough time to be easy, not be rushing.
What does Christian Taylor choose, a third Olympic title or World record
CB: Christian, we’re getting to the end of the interview. I have a very difficult question for you. If you could choose Olympic champion 2020 or 18 meters 30, what would you pick?
CT: 18 meters 30. Before it was extremely difficult, I really did not know. But to be completely honest it’s the 18.30. Well, if I jump this at the Olympics then I imagine I’m Olympic champion also, but right now really the greatest focus is the world record.
Right now really the greatest focus is the world record.
CB: You said it. I wanted to clarify that the current world record is 18.29, if I’m correct, so 18.30 would be the new world record. You have my support and I keep my fingers crossed for you for sure.
CT: Thanks so much, I really appreciate that.
His interview nomination
CB: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
CT: This is good. Actually, I’m a big fan of Churandy Martina, so if you have the opportunity to speak with him I think this is a guy that could tell you so much. He’s been in the sport for so long, and so I’m a big fan of his and I would nominate him.
CB: It would be a very entertaining interview.
Where can you find Christian Taylor
CB: Christian, where can people find you?
CT: My hashtag is @taylored2jump, taylored like my last name. And if not, then smiling somewhere around the track.
Christian’s social profiles
Facebook athlete page
CB: Thanks a lot for your time, and I think it was a really great interview.
CT: Thanks so much.