If all goes as planned, Monday at 8:45 p.m. London time, Angelo Taylor will be coiling himself into his starting block at Olympic Stadium and taking his mark. Edwin Moses will be observing from a television studio not far from the track.
The two men, who live only miles apart in Atlanta, are bound by mutual respect and a shared place in Olympic history. Monday night, over the course of 400 meters and 10 three-foot hurdles, Taylor will attempt to distinguish himself from the great Moses by becoming the first hurdler to win three Olympic golds in the 400-meter hurdles.
“I want to do something no one’s ever done before,” Taylor said before leaving for London. “That’s my motivation.”
Taylor, a graduate of Southwest DeKalb High and Georgia Tech, would have to advance through Friday’s first-round heats and Saturday’s semifinals to reach the final, where his main competition figures to be Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson and Great Britain’s David Greene. Aside from Taylor, the only other Olympians to twice win the 400 hurdles are Glenn Davis and Moses, the Morehouse College grad who won gold in 1976 and 1984. Moses, in London to commentate for British network Sky Sports, said he will “absolutely” be pulling for Taylor to finish first.
“If he pulls that off, it’ll be a fantastic achievement,” he said.
With golds from the 2000 and 2008 Olympics in the bag, Taylor has approached the pinnacle with discipline and attention to detail that pays tribute to the meticulous Moses. Workouts at the Emory University track have been followed by ice treatment. He has had weekly sessions with a chiropractor and massage therapist. He has shed about 13 pounds, Taylor’s brother and coach Corey said, to 185.
“When it comes to training for the Olympics, he turns into another person,” Corey said.
At this point in Taylor’s career, it’s by necessity. Taylor, 33, is the second oldest in the 400 hurdles field, most of whom are in their early 20’s. Taylor is, in fact, the same age that Moses was when he attempted to win his third gold, at the 1988 Games in Seoul. (He finished third.)
“I know how body parts begin to hurt,” Moses said. “Recovery, it takes a lot longer. It’s one of the more difficult events in track and field, if not the toughest event with the most skill sets (required) to stay and be a world champion, Olympic champion multiple times.”
Taylor has been close to obsessive with staying injury-free.
“One thing I know being an athlete, you only have a short span to do it, a short time to be a high-level athlete,” Taylor said. His approach is “just wanting to make the most of it when I’m doing it.”
A third hurdles gold would cement his standing in the event. Moses’ place is unmatched. In addition to his two golds, he broke the world record four times and famously won 122 races in a row between 1977 and 1987. His scientific approach to training helped revolutionize the sport.
Said Taylor, “He’s definitely one of the reasons why I run the 400 hurdles.”
Taylor has studied Moses’ career and races. His strategy to start powerfully out of the blocks may have its critics, but at least one noted proponent.
“I’m like, Dang, did they not ever see Edwin Moses run?” Taylor said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to emulate the best. He’s the best ever.”
Taylor, in fact, has grown a beard in Moses’ honor. Prior to leaving for London, it had not quite achieved the fullness of Moses’ mane in his competitive days.
“It’s supposed to be a little scraggly,” Moses said with approval. “He’s a gladiator. He’s not a fashionista.”
With an eye on history, Taylor saw his London mission likewise. While this may well be his final Olympics, he did not have plans to absorb the experience.
“I’m there to compete,” he said. “I’m there to do a job.”
It’s one that won’t be complete unless it ends with a gold medal dangling around his neck and a solitary place in Olympic history.