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Fri, Apr 25th 2008, 11:04

Bryan Clay breathes Olympic air

Bryan Clay is one of the world’s greatest athletes. He captured the silver medal in the decathlon at the 2004 Olympics, and is a strong contender for the gold in China in August.

The Castle High School graduate is also an asthma sufferer. But in a recent phone interview during a break in training in California, Clay said he is not worried about the rampant air pollution in Beijing. He said the decathlon is an endurance test full of obstacles for all competitors, and the potential of an asthma episode does not put him at an unfair advantage.

Before he thinks too much about China, though, Clay must first qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. The trials are in track and field mecca Eugene, Ore., at the end of June.

Bryan Clay says “everyone’s in the same situation” in the decathlon.

While that is definitely true in 10 different ways, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, who graduated from Castle High School, could face a distinct disadvantage at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Asthma and air pollution do not make a good combination, and smog dominates the sky over China’s capital and second-largest city.

“It flares up once in a while,” Clay said of his asthma. “I keep an inhaler on me. The U.S. team doctors have inhalers and are aware of it.”

But Clay considers the asthma a “condition,” not an unfair disadvantage that his competitors do not have to deal with. To him it is just another challenge among the many in the greatest test of an athlete’s versatility.

“Because of my fitness level, it’s controllable. The fitter you are, the less you have problems with asthma. You get born with and have to figure out how to manage it,” Clay said. “I know the conditions might be a little different in China, and I’ve been asked about it a bunch. But there’s really not much you can do about it. People say the weather and air quality might not be conducive to good marks. But when you’re in the Olympics, you’re not looking for best marks; you’re looking to win.

“I do the decathlon, so I’m used to dealing with all kinds of conditions. Where I train (in Southern California) is not the best air quality in the world. I have to deal with smog that sits right in the valley. On a bad day I can’t see the hills that are just a mile away. So I’m not overly concerned with it.”

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Anthony Campbell | on 26/4/08

Hey Bryan!

I saw you today and yesterday out on the track during the GSAC Championship meet. I was competing in the Decathlon for my second time, the first being at Fresno two weeks earlier. You were throwing Disc (amazingly!), then High Jumping as I finished my warm up for the 100. I was hoping to have a chance to meet you, but I didn’t want to disrupt your practice, and I never got the chance again… Wish I could have done this in person, but good luck at the trials and hopefully the Olympics. I will be watching, and hope you will snatch that WR!