Bryan Clay: ‘World’s Great Athlete’ Striving for More

Decathlete is aiming to become the first three-time Olympic medalist in his event

By Phil Minshull, Special to Universal Sports

Bryan Clay went to the 2008 Olympic Games hugely motivated to go one better than four years before when he took the decathlon silver medal in Athens.


Bryan Clay shows off his gold medal from the decathlon at the Beijing Olympics.

Clay arrived in Beijing as the prohibitive favorite after winning the World Indoor Championships heptathlon title earlier in the year and then the decathlon at the US trials with a world-lead and personal best of 8832 points.

He quickly made his presence felt once the gun went in the Chinese capital.

An accomplished sprinter, he dashed to a time of 10.44 for the 100 meters to take the lead and was never headed during the remaining nine events to score 8791 points, finishing with an advantage of 240 points over his nearest rival.

It was the biggest margin of victory at the Olympics since 1972 and Clay truly deserved to be called ‘The World’s Great Athlete’, a phrase often used to describe Olympic and world decathlon winners.

“This has been an amazing journey. Something we have all worked really hard on for the past eight years. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have worked for something for so long, to finally accomplish it and to have my dreams come true,” reflected Clay, after adding his name to the roll call of great American decathlon champions such as Bob Mathias, Bruce Jenner and Dan O’Brien.

It was not the first time Clay had stood on top of the podium at a global championship and nor would it be the last.

He had also won the 2005 World Championships decathlon title would retain his heptathlon crown at the World Indoor Championships two years later but triumphing the Olympics brings a special type of glory to a sportsman or woman.

The question is now, can Clay retain his Olympic title, a feat only ever achieved by Mathias and Great Britain’s Daley Thompson? If he does, he would become the first decathlete in history with three Olympic medals.

Clay celebrated his 32nd birthday on January 3 and the Hawaiian native would be the oldest athlete ever to win a decathlon medal if he can get among the top three in London while niggling injuries have hampered him during the last two years and he has not finished a decathlon since 2010.

Fellow Americans Ashton Eaton and two-time world champion Trey Hardee, one and two on the 2011 decathlon world rankings, have also emerged in the last three years as extremely credible pretenders to Clay’s Olympic crown.

However, few doubt Clay’s determination to face up to the challenge. “I have set my sights on making history and becoming the first decathlete to in a medal at three Olympic Games,” commented Clay recently.