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Wed, Aug 6th 2008, 21:33

Small size, big heart define Clay

By Ferd Lewis

Invariably, as they line up for the first decathlon event of these Olympic Games in Beijing, the starting line will resemble a hulking, well-muscled forest.

There will almost certainly be an array of 6-foot-4, 6-5 and even a few 6-6 and 6-7 types. The average will be well above 6-2.

And, then, dwarfed among them will be Bryan Clay at, maybe, his officially listed 5-feet, 11 inches, looking for all the world like the point guard on a basketball team.

An imposing sight to be sure.

For the rest of them, that is.

In the decathlon Clay, a Castle High graduate and 2004 silver medalist at Athens, is a big deal.

And, as his U.S. Olympic trials record of 8,832 points underscored, Clay is getting bigger all the time.

Which is remarkable for someone who gives away so much in height and — when it comes to several of the 10 events that make up the competition — leverage.

Indeed, Clay is bidding to win the goal medal in an event where every Olympic winner since 1928 has been 6 feet or taller. Jim Thorpe, the storied 1912 winner, was 6-1. Clay’s two U.S. teammates, Tom Pappas and Trey Hardee, are 6-5.

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