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Sun, Aug 3rd 2008, 17:43

For Clay, a gold would be icing (Star Bulletin)

He’s always been able to perform well in big events, so Beijing should be no exception, he says.

The greatest athlete in the world.

That’s what the gold in the Olympic decathlon represents.

It may not have the glamour that it once had, the prized photo on the Wheaties box, the “wonder boy” accolades bestowed upon Bob Mathias in 1948 and ’52.

It certainly is not the stuff of legends so thoughtfully chronicled in David Maraniss’ recent book “Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed The World” with the epic battle between UCLA teammates Rafer Johnson and C.K. Yang.

Nor is it the much-hyped, ill-fated “Dan and Dave” commercials of 1992, where Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson brought attention to the 10-event sport courtesy of Reebok.

The American public would be hard-pressed to identify all of the 10 athletes featured in last month’s “Got Milk?” ad in Sports Illustrated. Yet there, standing tall right behind former University of Hawaii soccer player Natasha Kai, is Castle High graduate Bryan Clay.

The unassuming, milk-mustached, all-of-5-feet-and-11-inches Clay. America’s best hope for the gold since O’Brien in 1996.

Clay’s thoughts last week, as training near his California home tapered off, were of both Beijing and Hawaii. The world will be watching later this month, the two-day competition at National Stadium: 100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400-meter dash on Aug. 21, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and the grueling 1,500 on Aug. 22.

Can he deliver? Can he surpass his record-setting 8,832 points of June’s U.S. Olympic Trials?

“I’ve done everything I can do to be in the position to do well,” said Clay, the silver medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens. “I hate thinking that I have to win the gold to show people what I’m capable of. I would like to think I’ve already shown it.

“The way I look at it, the gold would be icing on the cake. I hope it goes well enough for me to come home with the gold medal. And hopefully there will be opportunities I can capitalize on to keep on training and competing.”

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