It’s been two years since Olympic triple jump gold medalist Christian Taylor put the track and field world on notice when he recorded the second-best triple jump in history and missed the world record by just 3/100ths of a meter. The Philip Stein sports watch he wears at each meet is engraved with the number “18.30” inside, making it a question of when and not if Jonathan Edwards’ 23-year mark of 18.23 will fall.

But ever since Taylor’s amazing 18.21-meter leap at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, the road to inevitability has been anything but automatic. And now, after failing to set the mark so far this year, it comes down to this Friday’s IAAF Diamond League Final in Brussels, Belgium, the third event this month for the two-time Olympic gold medalist to either make history or spend another offseason thinking about breaking the elusive record.

“That’s the one thing on my bucket list that’s outstanding,” Taylor says. “The record is the one thing that’s left for me.”

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In May’s Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, OR, Taylor leaped a season-best 18.11, but has come nowhere near the mark since. The University of Florida alum won his third straight title at July’s World Championships in London, but fell short of the record with a leap of 17.68, narrowly edging American teammate and fellow Gator Will Claye. Despite failing at the record, Taylor, however, became the first triple jumper to win three world championships. “I was very disappointed, but I had to take some time to myself and realize that this was a piece of history—I was the first person to defend his title.”

Christian Taylor Guns to Break a 23-year-old Triple Jump Record at IAAF Diamond League Final

Glyn Kirk/ Getty Images 

However, two weeks ago at the Tignes Athletics Open in the French Alps, a combination of high altitudes and an elevated track led to Taylor’s disappointing second-place finish to Claye with a lackluster leap of 16.99 meters.

“Going into world championships, my focus was completely on the world record,” Taylor, 27, admits. “That was all I had on my mind. When I jumped 18.21 in Beijing, my whole mission was to go out and win. This time, I was only thinking about 18.29, and I didn’t jump even close to it. For me, that was really a learning experience. My mindset [going into Brussels] is to go out there and do what it takes to win.”

With only one meet remaining, Taylor will continue training up to Friday’s meet, albeit just maintenance work, similar to his training in France. Maintaining a consistent sleep pattern is key, making Taylor nearly reliant on his Philip Stein sleep bracelet, which will help get him a normal nine to 12 hours of sleep. “I don’t want to sound dependent on it, but it’s really just the peace of mind I get when I do wear the bracelet,” Taylor says.

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On the track, Taylor works on timing with five or six moderate 60-meter sprints. “I’m running the same steps as I would when I’m doing my approach. Really staying into that rhythm, the similar movements, doing that several times,” he says.

In the weight room, it’s light weight. Three sets of three reps with hang cleans followed by speed squats (3×6), ensuring his fast-twitch fibers are firing, he says. Taylor adds dumbbell stepups, using only 20% of his bodyweight for three sets of six reps, with a medicine ball finisher. I couldn’t find a medicine ball in France, so I just threw a shotput around on the track,” he says. He’ll finish with core work involving normal crunches, side crunches, various planks, and legs lifts.

Win or lose, record or no record, one thing is for certain: Taylor, who now resides in the Netherlands, and his girlfriend, Austrian hurdler Beate Schrott, will venture to Austria for a few months of downtime before heading back to the States in time to catch his Gators face Georgia at the end of October. But still, deep down, Taylor is hoping Saturday will close his bucket list once and for all. “Hopefully, I’m talking to a lot of press about what a really good night Saturday was.”

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