Christian Taylor, the two-time Olympic and three-time world consecutive reigning triple jump champion, ruptured his Achilles while competing at the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic, his fiancé said Thursday on Instagram.
"Christian ruptured his Achilles during the competition in Ostrava yesterday," Beate Schrott shared. "It’s heartbreaking. Really."
Taylor, who hasn't lost a major global title since 2013, had already underwent surgery and the procedure went well, according to Schrott's post.
"Doctors and therapists are taking very good care of him. Thank you all in advance for your positive thoughts and prayers!" she said. "Can I ask you to pray for him and send lots of positive energy his way? Christian is putting all his faith in God. I know he’ll get through this. He will fight his way back. He’ll come out of this situation not smelling like smoke. But it’s not easy and he sure can use some prayers."
Taylor, 30, finished fifth at Wednesday's Continental Tour competition. Broadcast coverage had footage of his fourth attempt during which he could be seen tripping up near the jump-off board. Results showed a fault on his subsequent jump but Taylor presumably pulled out thereafter.
It's unclear when or on which attempt the injury may have occurred. His fourth attempt can be seen here at the 1:36:44 mark.
The Georgia native replied to a few concerned fans' tweets Wednesday after the meet, writing that he was OK and staying positive in one, and that it was "another opportunity to get stronger, physically and mentally," in another. A third directly inquired about his foot; he replied saying he was having it checked out in a few hours but had no pain. He thanked a fourth for their well wishes and wrote, "I will do my best to get back soon and stronger than before."
In a statement Friday to NBC Sports' Lewis Johnson, Taylor said he will miss Tokyo but has his eyes already set on next year's worlds in Eugene.
"I am disappointed to not be able to go for my third consecutive Olympic Gold in Tokyo, but I will be back," Taylor told Johnson. "I have 426 days until Triple Jump at Eugene 2022 and I am already setting my target on that podium."
Rana Reider, Taylor's coach, told Reuters Thursday that it was a complete rupture of the right Achilles and that the surgery was performed Thursday morning in Germany.
In total, the American is a four-time world champion, having also won non-consecutively in 2011. As reigning world champion in 2013 he placed fourth in Moscow due to knee pain, then shortly after chose to switch his take-off leg – a risky yet necessary decision that ultimately turned out quite well.
Taylor was – and, if a miracle occurs, still remains – a heavy favorite in Tokyo. But with just 30 days to go until the men's triple jump begins at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, it seems unlikely based on what's publicly known now that he'll be able to fully recover in time. A WebMD article on Achilles injuries says recovery periods can differ in length depending on severity: 4-6 months for a typical surgery and up to a year for complete ruptures.
If Taylor is ultimately unable to compete this summer it leaves open an unexpected opportunity for Team USA comrade Will Claye, also his teammate while at the University of Florida, who over the past decade has consistently finished in Taylor's shadow.
The duo is unlike anything the sport has ever seen. Together they're the two-time reigning Olympic champion and runner-up from the 2016 and 2012 Games, and the two-time reigning world champion and runner-up from the 2019 and 2017 world championships. In each of those four, Taylor and Claye went 1-2, respectively.
Claye has only earned triple jump gold at the world indoor championships, winning twice in 2012 and 2018, and beating Taylor in the former. Taylor hasn't competed at a world indoors since. Claye's only defeat of Taylor at a major global title competition outdoors was his bronze at the aforementioned 2013 worlds in Moscow.
Claye, 29, has the best triple mark in the world since the Rio Games — an 18.14m hop-skip-jump from June 2019 in California.
Looking back in Olympic history alone, there are only eight other instances across all events in which two track and field athletes have kept the same gold-silver order in an individual event in consecutive Games:
- 1948 to 1952: USA's Mal Whitfield and Jamaica's Arthur Wint in the men's 800m, and Czechoslovakia's Emil Zatopek and France's Alain Mimoun in the men's 10,000m;
- 1998 to 1992: USA's Carl Lewis and Mike Powell in the men's long jump;
- 1996 to 2000: Czech Republic's Jan Zelezny and Great Britain's Steve Backley in the men's javelin, and Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie and Kenya's Paul Tergat in the men's 10,000m;
- 2004 to 2008: Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown and USA's Allyson Felix in the women's 200m, and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine in the 10,000m;
- 2008 to 2012: Czeck Republic's Barbora Spotakova and Germany's Christina Obergfoll in the women's javelin.
- Only two – Lewis-Powell and Bekele-Sihine – were compatriots like Taylor and Claye. No tandem has gone back-to-back-to-back.
Individually, back-to-back Olympic titles in the event aren't all too rare. Of the 28 Olympic men's triple jumps to have already taken place, nearly 40% were won as part of a consecutive title streak. Taylor in 2016 became the fifth men's triple jumper to win gold at consecutive Olympics, following American Myer Prinstein in 1900 and 1904, Brazilian Adhemar da Silva in 1952 and 1956, Pole Jozef Szmidt in 1960 and 1964, and Soviet Viktor Saneyev, who went back-to-back-to-back from 1968 to 1976.
Saneyev is part of a broader yet more exclusive group of eight track and field athletes across the entire sport to have won three or more in a row in the same event, a class Taylor could still potentially join but non-consecutively if he indeed misses Tokyo. All eight achieved their same-event three in succession without gaps.
Winning four straight:
- American discus thrower Al Oerter, 1956-1968
- American Carl Lewis in the long jump, 1984-1996
Winning three straight:
- American Ray Ewry in both the standing long and high jumps, 1900-1908
- American hammer thrower John Flanagan, 1900-1908
- Czech javelin thrower Jan Zelezny, 1992-2000
- Polish racewalker Robert Korzeniowski in the 50 km walk, 1996-2004
- Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in both the 100m and 200m, 2008-2016 (had 4x100m relay, too, but stripped of 2008 gold)