The Games of the XXX Olympiad will forever hold a special place in the hearts of three former Cornell athletes, who had the honor of competing for their respective countries. However, those were not the only Cornellians to make an appearance at the London Games. Men’s track and field head coach Nathan Taylor served as a coach for the United States Virgin Islands team.
The Olympics transformed London for the summer, becoming closely interconnected for the duration of the Games, according to Taylor.
“The Olympics were very integrated with the city,” he said. “You couldn’t go a block without seeing a volunteer who could give you directions to any place that you wanted to go. Their background and knowledge of the city was incredible.”
Having visited London in the past, Taylor noted that despite sharing a common language the U.S. and England are very culturally different.
“I’d been to London probably 10 times before, and I always love seeing the sights,” he said. “It’s completely different than the U.S. even though we speak the same language.”
The 2012 Games marked the first time that Taylor served as a coach in the Olympics. The honor of serving as a coach in London was a source of immense excitement for Taylor — an experience that he spoke about with great enthusiasm.
“I was like a kid in a candy shop,” he said. “All the other people who had been on more trips than I had teased me mercilessly because I was so excited about everything. It was crazy; I had a blast.”
While one would think there would be a contrast between the level of talent at such a high level of competition such as the Olympics, Taylor said that the athletes were still working hard to refine their craft. Coaching at the Olympic level is not so far a jump from coaching at the collegiate level, according to Taylor.
“It’s not that much different,” he said. “Every athlete in every sport is working on getting better. When you as a coach can identify the areas where the athlete can get better and you can communicate that to them, they’re eager to get better. Here at the collegiate level and even at that level you’re still working on refining things for your sport.”
Beyond his own relationships with his athletes, Taylor said that he noticed that at such a high level of competition as the Olympics, there exists a mutual degree of respect between coaches and athletes. Not only was Taylor able to communicate with his competitors, he was also able to both borrow and lend knowledge.
“It was fantastic to see the best coaches in the world work with their athletes,” he said. “I was surprised to find that so many people spoke such [good] English. I could ask them questions about what they were doing, and they were eager to share. That surprised me.”
For Taylor, these Olympic games were as much an opportunity to learn as they were an opportunity to coach on this level.
“I got to learn tons of really valuable things on all levels of track and field,” he said.
While the competitions for the different sports are the main feature of the Olympic Games, the opening ceremony often times draws almost as much hype as the actual events. This year’s Games featured an opening ceremony entitled, “Isles of Wonder,” designed by film director Danny Boyle, with music direction from the electronic music group Underworld. In an attempt to outdo the theatricality of the opening ceremony in Beijing four years ago, England put on a show that grabbed the world’s attention — something that Taylor described as powerful.
“It was great. I was very moved by it,” he said. “It was very much an English celebration.”
This year’s Games featured many memorable moments, with Michael Phelps becoming the most winningest Olympian in history by earning his 19th gold medal, Team USA winning gold in the men’s basketball final and Usain Bolt breaking world records and solidifying that he is arguable the best sprinter of all time to name a few. With excitement surrounding almost every event, it was hard for Taylor to pick his single favorite moment of the Olympic Games.
“[Choosing one is] tough,” he said. “I saw some women’s volleyball that was unreal. On the track, the men’s 800 was a world record for every spot from one through eight, and of course you can’t ignore an incredible effort by Usain Bolt. He’s the star of the Games. He’s a man among children.”
While the excitement of the Olympics is still fresh on his mind, Taylor is back stateside and focused on preparing another team. The Cornell coach is hard at work to help the men’s cross county team gear up for another run at the Heps crown. The Red has placed fifth for the past two consecutive years.