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    SEC Q&A: Christian Taylor

    By: Sean Cartell
    Twitter: @SEC_Sean
    SEC Digital Network

    Former Florida track and field standout Christian Taylor heads into the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games considered by many to be the favorite to capture the men’s triple jump.

    Taylor, a former Florida star, splashed onto the national scene by winning the 2011 World Championships in the men’s triple jump and also was the silver medalist at the 2012 World Indoor Championships in that event. His final collegiate performance at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships went down as the No. 1 all-conditions collegiate performance at 17.80m/58-4.75w. He won back-to-back NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2010 and 2011 and won indoors in 2009 and 2010, helping lead Florida to its first two team NCAA Indoor Championships.

    Taylor sat down with the SEC Digital Network this week to offer his thoughts on a variety of topics, including the Olympic Games.

    SEC Digital Network: What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and how long have you thought about this moment?

    Christian Taylor: “This is an extraordinary opportunity – it doesn’t get better than this. The Olympic Games is the highest level a person can reach in their athletic career. It is very similar to the Super Bowl or World Series, depending on the sport. With all this being said, it means the world to me to be able to represent my family, friends, church, university and, most of all, my country. It has been something I have dreamed of and have worked towards since I began running track. When I was 16, I began dreaming of the chance of going to the Olympics either to watch or participate. I wasn’t very serious about track then, but I couldn’t believe how cool the Olympic atmosphere was. I knew that it would be a blessing to be able to watch athletes battle each other for the world title and, if I was lucky, maybe I could be a contender myself.”

    SEC Digital Network: Track and Field News, in its form charts, has you predicted as the favorite to win the Gold Medal in the triple jump. How do you deal with those expectations or do you like having such high expectations placed on you?

    Christian Taylor: “I think it is wonderful that Track and Field News selected me to win the gold in the Games. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than someone’s belief to actually bring back the hardware. Most of the time, I don’t pay attention to what the media has to say. I listen to it all because I do not want to be rude, but I don’t want to actually soak it in. I also take into consideration that most of the statements are opinionated. I set very high expectations for myself and may never be able to reach them. But if you don’t dream big, you will never push yourself to the limit.”

    SEC Digital Network: With all the success you’ve had the past year – winning the World Outdoor Championships and finishing first at Olympic Trials – how much confidence have you gained from that?

    Christian Taylor: “The past year was a huge blessing. It was clearer to me who is really in control of my life and it was truly a life-changing moment. It was a huge step in both my athletics and also my faith. With the change in my confidence and growth in my faith, I go into competitions literally stress free. I use the statement ‘Jump with Faith’ because it is what I do.”

    SEC Digital Network: How much fun is it to be competing at such a high level alongside your college teammate Will Claye? How do you two push and motivate each other?

    Christian Taylor: “It is unbelievable having the opportunity to train with not just a former teammate but also someone who has become my brother. Will is a great friend to me and, outside the track, we don’t ever think about the competitions. We have been competing against each other for a very long time and we know that we are both very good for each other. We always get to push each other and make the other person rise to the occasion. Now that the Games are coming up, we are once again reunited as teammates for Team USA. But we will always be teammates in the Gator Nation.”

    SEC Digital Network: How do you feel that your time competing at Florida has helped you prepare to be so successful on the international stage?

    Christian Taylor: “Florida served as a great preparation stage for my professional career. While I was at UF, I was thinking about doing my best for the team in the SECs and NCAAs, but I think what made the difference was the fact that the coaches were also making me think about what the professionals were doing. This helped make the transition very smooth and I believe that was one of the reasons that Will and I did so well at the World Championships.”

    SEC Digital Network: How do you feel when you look back at where you were when you entered college to where you are now, as the best triple jumper in the world? What have been your keys to success over that four-year period?

    Christian Taylor: “It is pretty amazing to think how truly blessed I have been to be so successful, especially at such a young age. The thing I can credit my success to over the last four years would have to be my teammates. Yes, I did have wonderful coaches, both on the track and in the weight room. But having such strong and supportive teammates is what made the difference. They pushed me to better myself each day in practice and, at the meets, they all came together to help me jump farther or cheer on the relay to run faster.”

    SEC Digital Network: What is your mindset going into the Olympics and what will you do in the coming weeks to prepare?

    Christian Taylor: “I just competed in the London Grand Prix and did well in the competition. There are still things I need to work out, but getting that competition in allows me to get an idea of where I am and lets me know what I need to work on to win the Games. In the next two weeks, I will lift and practice as I have done all season. There is no need to do a drastic change, as that is not what got me here. Staying grounded and focused will be the keys to reaching my goal. And, God willing, I want to bring that Gold back to The Swamp, where it belongs.”