By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) - Christian Taylor will be delighted to secure a record-breaking third world triple jump title in London this month, but the American has even loftier ambitions to cement his name in the history of the event.
"I am very happy with the medals but I am missing that 'WR' (world record)," the double Olympic champion told Reuters.
"That's the only reason I am in the sport."
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From the day training started in November to his last competition of the year, Taylor said "that is what I am chasing, that world record".
The 27-year-old came agonizingly close to achieving that goal at the 2015 world championships, failing by just eight centimeters to match Briton Jonathan Edwards' long-standing mark with a leap of 18.21 meters.
Now comes London.
"I think my world record could go there," Edwards told Reuters of his 1995 milestone in March.
And if it does, it could dampen the day for the British jumper turned broadcaster.
"I've looked at the schedule," Edwards said. "August 10. My son's birthday... a double blow. That'll be a bad birthday present."
While Taylor yearns for the record, "trying to be as respectful as possible because the distance has stood there 20 plus years," he said.
Competitiveness, he said, was his greatest asset.
"I'm sure not going to say I am stronger than Jonathan, faster than Jonathan. More experienced," Taylor said.
Yet the American has four of the nine longest jumps in history and is more than likely the only triple jumper to earn Olympic gold using different takeoff legs.
Left knee pain prompted the switch to a right-leg takeoff in 2013, a year after winning his first Olympic gold in London off his left leg.
"I didn't want to do injections, I didn't want to do knee surgeries," Taylor said. "So we thought outside the box and made the switch."
Not only did the Georgia native who trains in the Netherlands save his career, the move led to a second world title in 2015 and another Olympic gold in 2016.
His four longest jumps also have come from a right-leg launch, including the number three leap of all-time, an 18.11m effort in May that rekindled world record talk.
"I love to be in the conversation of the world record because that means that someone or several people see that there is potential," Taylor said.
U.S. team mate Will Claye and Cuban Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who upset Taylor at last month's Diamond League meet in Lausanne, appear to be the American's strongest challengers in London.
Then he will head off to the French resort of Tignes, not to ski but to enjoy the benefits of competing at altitude where rarefied air favors jumpers.
Should he surpass Edwards and set a new mark on Aug. 16, Taylor would not consider it as a record, though.
"It would always be with an asterisk," he said, because of the altitude.
Wherever the record comes, if it does, Taylor already knows what his next challenge will be -- an all-out assault on how fast he can run a flat 400 meters.
"No one has gone from at the top of the triple jump to the 400," the 45-second runner said.
"Many of the American triple jumpers in the past were great 200 meters runners. Not many 400 meters runners, especially in the 44 (second) region.
"This is what I am chasing. To do something quite different."