Christian Taylor in the triple jump at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
May the men’s triple jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games be as electrifying as it was at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
If it is, not only would the Olympic record be bettered, but the men might scare the 21-year-old world record as well.
The first name to be mentioned has to be that of Christian Taylor.
Taylor is the defending Olympic champion, defending world champion – recapturing that title in 2015 after first winning it in 2011 – as well as 2016 world leader.
On his final jump in Beijing, Taylor finally tuned and dispatched his rival, Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo, with an 18.21m effort, the longest ever jumped by anyone not named Jonathan Edwards.
Taylor’s 2016 campaign has been less explosive so far, his best effort being 'only' 17.78m, but five of the 10 longest marks this year also belong to him, and he has won four of the five IAAF Diamond League competitions.
The 17.78m mark, from the London stop on the IAAF Diamond League just a few weeks ago, was just three centimetres short of his gold medal mark in that same stadium four years ago.
Three more of the 10 best marks of 2016 belong to Taylor’s teammate Will Claye, silver medallist behind Taylor in 2012 and the only man in the past 80 years to win medals in both horizontal jumps at the same Olympic Games.
Claye fell short of qualifying for the final in Beijing but has bronze medals from the World Championships in 2011 and 2013 to go with his London silver and so far in 2016 he is the second best in the world.
As the undisputed second best of 2015, Pichardo might dispute that last clause.
The young Cuban (23 years old to Taylor’s 26) dueled with Taylor several times through the last season and with his 18.08m season’s best put himself fourth on the world all-time list. Of the five men who have jumped beyond 18 metres in the triple jump, two will be jumping in Rio.
However, Pichardo hasn’t been visible in high-profile competition so far in 2016.
The event continues to be competitive down the list. The third US entrant, Chris Benard, is fifth on the year’s performance list.
Third on the year’s list is a new face, India’s Renjith Maheswary, whose 17.30m PB earlier this year boosted him up behind Taylor and Claye.
China’s world indoor champion Dong Bin has several good marks outdoors. World bronze medallist Nelson Evora, who took the Olympic title in 2008, is not to be ignored, although the Portuguese jumper had a hugely disappointing European Championships where he failed to make the final.
The field is crowded, with 48 entrants showing the depth of competition in the event at the moment. This will make for a challenging qualifying round as officials will be trying to thin the field to a 12-man final.
Whether this is good or bad for the likes of Claye and Taylor remains to be seen. It is additional pressure for those who require several attempts to jump their best in a competition setting, but could spur those who thrive in high-pressure situations to reach new heights or, more accurately, lengths.
Parker Morse for the IAAF