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Fri, Aug 22nd 2008, 15:22

Bryan Clay takes decathlon gold

Despite a poor performance overall, the U.S. track and field team saved some face Friday when Bryan Clay took gold in the two-day, ten-event decathlon.

The native Hawaiian finished a close second in the 2004 Olympics, losing to his rival and friend, world-record-holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic. But this time around, the 28-year-old Mr. Clay dominated from the start, winning the 100 meters and the long jump and finishing second in the shot put. Mr. Sebrle finished a distant sixth.

Performing under heavy rain during the first three events, Mr. Clay was on pace to break Mr. Sebrle’s world-record decathlon score of 9,026 points. But he lost his momentum in the evening, scoring low in the high jump and the 400 meter. He held onto his overall lead, but his hopes of breaking Mr. Sebrle’s record were dashed.

Mr. Clay was back in form Friday morning, finishing second in the 110-meter hurdles, and winning the discus competition, traditionally one of his strongest events. With a comfortable lead and only two events remaining — the javelin and the 1,500-meter race — Mr. Clay still had a chance to break the American record of 8,891, held by Dan O’Brien. He ran out of gas in the 1,500 meter, finishing fast enough to stay ahead of Belarus’s Andrei Krauchanka and Cuba’s Leonel Suarez, but not enough to break any records.

Before leaving for China, Mr. Clay lived in relative obscurity considering his status as a world-class athlete. In an interview with The Journal earlier in the year, he joked about his visit to the Czech Republic, where he stayed in the much larger home of Mr. Sebrle. Mr. Clay said the two of them couldn’t walk down the street together in Prague without being stopped by fans.