Countless muggles have spent their 11th birthdays eagerly awaiting an invitation to enroll in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But 26-year-old Team USA decathlete Jeremy Taiwo has waited longer than most. And, among a legion of Harry Potter fans worldwide, the Seattle resident is undoubtedly one of the most physically fit.
While we don’t know when Taiwo’s Pottermania started, the boy wizard has become an integral part of the Olympian’s brand. Just like Harry, Jeremy has had to navigate the legacy of his parent’s greatness. Taiwo’s father, Joseph Taiwo, is a two-time Olympian who represented his native Nigeria in the triple jump at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games.
But that’s not the only similarity Taiwo cites between his life story and that of Hogwart’s most famous pupil. Taiwo was raised by a Nigerian father and a Colombian mother. He claims that this multiracial background has consistently cast him in the position of the “other”, marking him at an early age as an outsider. Not unlike—you guessed it—Harry Potter, whose parentage includes one muggle-born mother and one “pure-blood” father . Taiwo drives this connection home on his frequent Potter-related Instagram posts, often accompanied by the hashtag #HalfricanBloodPrince.
While Harry Potter produced his first corporeal Patronus at the age of thirteen—nbd—Taiwo is a relatively late bloomer. Although it’s always been his dream to emulate his father’s Olympic journey, it’s taken 26 years of ups and downs, including injuries and rehab, for the younger Taiwo to finally qualify.
Jeremy Taiwo cemented his position on Team USA with a career-best performance in the U.S. Olympic trials, finishing in second place behind reigning Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton. Even after earning his spot, Taiwo has had to campaign vigorously to support himself and make it to the games. Apparently the Olympic decathlete, much like The Chosen One, essentially toils pro bono.
Despite his number two ranking, Taiwo only earns a small stipend from USA Track & Field. Without a steady salary, Taiwo has been forced to pick up a part-time job at Dick’s Sporting Goods to afford his trip to Rio—the muggle equivalent of wasting away in a cupboard under the stairs.
For the Olympian, who describes his sport as “The Triwizard Cup of Track & Field”, Potter’s underdog story is a vital inspiration. And lest the decathlete ever forget his favorite magical YA series, he’s permanently tattooed the Gryffindor crest on his chest. In Taiwo’s words, “I wanted my first tattoo to be meaningful.”
With his copy of The Cursed Child in hand, Taiwo is destined for Rio greatness, no matter how he performs. He’s also the only Olympian who’s as likely to tag #ProfessorSprout on an Instagram as #TeamUSA. The diehard Rowling fan has even read The Casual Vacancy, a test of perseverance, dedication, and endurance not dissimilar to the Olympic decathlon.
When he’s not kicking back with a cool glass of butterbeer, Taiwo has been known to dabble in secondary fandoms. According to his social media accounts, the self-described Twihard even took a trip to Forks, Washington. Befitting a true underdog, Taiwo is #TeamJacob. Unfortunately, this adorably nerdy decathlete has already found his Ginny Weasley—longtime girlfriend and fellow Olympian Justine Fedronic.
Taiwo is set to make Track & Field magic at Wednesday’s Men’s decathlon.