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LI's Christian Taylor wins gold in Olympic triple jump

Gold medalist Christian Taylor of the United States

Gold medalist Christian Taylor of the United States celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony for the men's triple jump on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Aug. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

LONDON -- When he hopped, stepped and jumped to the gold medal at the 2011 world track and field championships in Daegu, South Korea, it was confirmation of Christian Taylor's emergence into elite status.

A year later, the 22-year-old, Uniondale-born, Georgia-schooled, Florida-trained athlete has leaped to a whole new planet. With his triple jump of 58 feet, 5 1/4 inches Thursday night, Taylor brings new relevance to an event that's often been an afterthought in the United States.

"I just hope a lot of kids back home are paying attention," said Taylor, who spent one year on Long Island before his family moved to Georgia. "The triple jump is a great event and a challenging event. For too long, though, we haven't been paying attention, and that's a shame. Maybe this will change things."

Not only did Taylor win the gold medal but his former Gators teammate, Will Claye (who placed third in Daegu last year), leaped off with the silver with a performance of 57-9 3/4 five days after he took the Olympic bronze in the long jump.

With world record-holder Jonathan Edwards of Great Britain, who jumped 60 feet and a quarter-inch in 1995, handling the triple jump commentary for BBC television, Taylor had his heart set on challenging Edwards' record.

It wasn't to be in the often difficult windy conditions, but his 58-11 1/4 at Daegu still ranks him fifth on the all-time list.

"He is the best. He's my idol," Taylor said of Edwards, whom he watched in footage from the 1996 and 2000 Games. "He was so technically perfect. He didn't make mistakes."

With triple-jump silver, Claye became the first man (since Naoto Tajima of Japan at Berlin) to medal in the two Olympic horizontal jumps in 76 years. The U.S. hadn't had an Olympic medal-winning triple jumper since Kenny Harrison edged Edwards for the gold in 1996; four years earlier, Mike Conley and Charles Simpkins had antedated the Taylor-Claye feat by going 1-2 at Barcelona.

After two fouls, Taylor had a 56-3 1/4 in Round 3, then had his 58-5 1/4 winner in Round 4. "I was going for it," Taylor said. "I've worked so hard that to see it come together is a blessing."

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