In his first year as a professional athlete, Will Claye accomplished more than many athletes could ever dream.
Fast Facts about Will Claye
Favorite Class: Non-profit Organizations
Least Favorite Class: Math
Where are his Olympic medals: Most of the time in his backpack going to an event, or in a drawer
Favorite experience since London: The city of Gainesville made Oct. 4 Will Claye Day
Future Goals: Will would like to coach at the collegiate level and run a non-profit in Sierra Leone.
Claye first turned heads as he helped bring American jumpers back to prominence at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu where he won bronze in the long jump. From there he went on to win gold at World Indoors and win two medals at the Olympic Games.
For someone who accomplished so much at just 21-years-old, there was one thing he still needed to do - finish college.
After the London Olympics, Claye moved back to the University of Florida to finish his degree in family youth and consumer science. Claye decided to take the spring semester of 2012 off in order to focus on his preparation for the Olympics and live at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
The move obviously went well for Claye, and he intends to return to Chula Vista and coach Jeremy Fischer after he graduates. But not everyone understood why he returned to Florida.
“Some people told me it wasn’t a good idea to leave,” Claye said. “But right now, school is the most important thing, and I need to finish soon.”
But for someone whose parents moved to the United States from Sierra Leone in order to go to college, education has always been a big part of his life.
“I never thought about not finishing college,” Claye said. “My two older brothers have finished college, and now it is my turn.”
In the classroom, Claye doesn’t boast about his athletic accomplishments, but it’s hard for others to overlook him.
“I try to blend in," Claye said. “But in my first class some people saw me and I could hear them whispering about me and pointing.”
Claye is balancing a full load of classes with serving as a volunteer assistant coach for the Florida Gators. On top of that he has been to numerous events where he has been honored for his Olympic accomplishments.
“It’s been tough to keep up with all of it,” Claye said. “I’m still trying to catch up with classes, but right now I’m not training. Once I start training I won’t be able to travel like I am now.”
Claye plans to graduate in May of next year before returning to Chula Vista to train for the 2013 World Championships.
“I really want to walk at graduation so my mom can watch me,” Claye said. “I’ll have to see what the track schedule is like, but I know it is important to her to see me graduate.”