The 2012 Summer Olympics provide a platform for many athletes to put on display their work for the last four years. For Atlanta resident Angelo Taylor, it’s a familiar place that can confirm his longevity as one of track and field’s all-time greats.
At 33, Taylor stands in the record books as just the third man to win multiple gold medals in the individual 400-meter hurdles and one of just a handful of individuals to have repeated as a gold medalist in the same event. As he prepares for his first race tomorrow evening in Team USA’s Olympic trials, his three Olympic gold medals are reminders of how awesome he has been. But he is up in age for this occasion, and years in between those medals provide Taylor with a different set of trials moving forward.
Let’s go back first. Less than six months after competing in the 2004 Summer Olympics, Taylor was allegedly found having sex with a 15-year-old girl in the back of a parked car. It was his second such offense with a minor. The three-time gold medalist eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and was sentenced to three years probation in lieu of jail time.
Taylor’s legal troubles and the resulting scandal forced him out of competition for all of 2005, and much of 2006. He took up a second career as an electrician to produce income, and he trained on his own time in an effort to return to the sport and, eventually, the Olympics.
“When you’re on top like that, and reach rock bottom, you get a new perspective,” Taylor told Atlanta Black Star in an exclusive interview. “You have to make proper sacrifices and put in the hard work; I’m a testament to that.”
At the 2008 Games in Beijing, Taylor’s hard work paid off, landing him gold not only in the 4×400 meter relay, but also in the 400-meter hurdles. For the newest American double Olympic champion, redemption was served. But Taylor’s story didn’t end in Beijing; though his name may have escaped the headlines, Taylor continued to compete internationally to stay sharp.
Now, with the Olympics Trials underway, he’ll once again be the subject of much attention in what will likely be his last opportunity at the Games.
“I’m feeling good,” Taylor said. “Training is going well, a step ahead of where I was in 2008. [Age] plays a factor, it takes me longer to recover, but I believe I’m still in the upper echelon of competitors.”